Sunday, August 25, 2013

Oh the differences...

So breakfast here in South Korea is a tad bit different.  First of all, there is kimchi served at every single meal.  I've heard that it is an acquired taste.  We shall see about that.  I tried it for breakfast one morning, and my nose hairs woke up.  Kimchi is a traditional Korean side dish that is made from fermented vegetables.  Yep, you read that right.  It has a big-time kick....a kick to the gut.  Apparently it will clean out your insides.  I believe that.  One guy said it took him 2 years to acquire the taste for it.  I'm still going to keep trying it, and I will let you know.

This morning, we also had mashed potatoes and sausages with onions and cabbage.  The sausage tasted like Vienna sausages.  We had pancakes too, but those didn't last too long on my plate because they were so good, even though the syrup was different and clear.

Breakfast with Melissa
My roommate, Angelica

Our dorm room is on the 13th floor.  The cafeteria is on the 3rd floor.  And we have to leave from the 1st floor to walk to our classes in another building.  We are ALWAYS waiting on the elevator.  There is one elevator for the even floors, one for the odd floors, and a "secret" elevator behind the door where Angelica is for all the floors.  So we always push the buttons for both elevators to see which one comes first.  There is waiting, waiting, and more waiting.  I have no doubt that the students at the university are ready for the EPIK teachers to leave!
Watching for both elevators

Moving onto the differences between the United States and South Korea.  I will be adding more to this list as I learn more, but let's get started.

Education - This part is HUGE.  There are SO many big differences, and I am simply amazed to learn all of them.  It is fascinating to me, especially being a teacher back home in Texas.

  • The United States high school math curriculum is completed by Year One in Korea.  That means that students have finished Pre-Cal and Trigonometry their freshman year.  Crazy, right?
  • Korea is #1 in math in the world - which makes sense from the first point
  • You go school no matter what (whether you are a student or a teacher), even if you are at deaths' door.  If you're contagious, they might have you wear a face mask.  Our lecturer showed us this video, and we were all laughing hysterically.  You just have to watch it.
  • Standards are VERY high in Korea.
    • Most students go to school from 8:30-4:30pm at their regular school and then go to a Hagwon (an academy or "cram school") from 5:00-10:00pm or even as late as midnight.
    • Wealthy families send their children to Hagwons, but if you're poor or live in a rural area, you don't have the same opportunities - that is why EPIK started having their teachers do winter and summer camps, which is where we come in (it's basically camps for students who want extra credit during winter and summer vacation; students apply for it; it's completely opposite from summer school in the states for the students who need remediation)
    • Textbooks and curriculum are constantly changing.  Textbooks only cost about 2,000 won or $2, and they are paperbacks.  Korean students simply cannot imagine having hand-me-down textbooks like we do in the states.
    • The students have 2 exams per semester (mid-term and final), which make up their GPA.  It is extremely competitive in Korea, so GPA counts. 
    • Their exam to get into college is way bigger than in the states.  Students study, study, and study some more.  The big companies like Samsung will only take the top students.
Personal Space 
  • Koreans are much more likely to touch each other (and foreigners) on the hand, arm, and even on the leg if you are sitting down together (men not excluded).  This happened to one of our lecturers.  He went out to eat dinner with his co-workers including his principal who was also a man.  In the middle of dinner, the principal put his hand on his leg near his upper thigh and just left it there for 10 minutes.  Weird, I know.
  • Koreans love to hold hands.  This includes girls and girls, boys and boys, women and women, men and men.  No matter the age.  
Direct Way of Speaking
  • Koreans are known to be very direct in their speaking.
    • "Your nose is big."
    • "Why are you fat?" - hopefully I will not here this one 
    • "Teacher, your class is boring."
  • They will also give advice whether you want it or not. 
Size and Population
  • South Korea is about the same size as Indiana.
  • It has about 50,000,000 people, which is the same as the combined populations of California AND Texas....all in the size of the state of Indiana.
  • It is very we've been told.  We've been prepared.  However, we hear that Daejeon is a great city where people are a little more spread out.
I will mention the difference in the bathrooms later.....

One last interesting fact about Korea....Korea has the #1 alcohol sold in the whole world (which is crazy since it's only the size of Indiana).  SOJU!  Soju is made from sweet potatoes.  I had my first taste of Soju the other night, and we opted for the flavored Soju.  We got the peach Soju, and it was SOOOO good.  

Today, we had our final orientation classes thank goodness.  This has been a long week, and we are all tired.  Today we had Secondary School Education, English Comprehension, After School Camps, and Co-Teaching.  Now you might not know this, but I have led several trainings on Co-Teaching.  However, I even learned some new things from them.  Co-teaching is expected much more here, especially between the Korean teacher and the EPIK English teacher.  

Here are some pictures as we are in our classes.  

Michelle, one of our class leaders
A typical paperback textbook

And now for the fun pictures in class....Michelle taught us how to pose Korean style!

Oh, and I have great news to share....I have my school address!  So now you can send me packages!  Hint, hint....

Daejeon Dong-gu Gao-dong 171-1
Daejeon Public School for the Blind
Daejeon, South Korea

I am so excited to actually get to Daejeon, see my apartment, get settled, meet my co-teacher, and meet my students.  We meet our POE/MOE Supervisors tomorrow after our lesson demonstrations, and then leave for our respective cities on Tuesday morning.  Daejeon, ready or not, here I come!