We’ve come to the end, but it is only the beginning.

 

Today marked the final day of our WONDERFUL, absolutely amazing 2016 Global Studies in Education, South Korea Experience. I am certain that this visit will forever be etched in minds and hearts as we travel back across the globe to share with others the knowledge, ideas and practices the we have seen first hand.

On our last day our itinerary was “Self Exploration Day.” Even though for the past 9 days we have been going non-stop, there is still so much to do here and our sponsors were kind enough to let us have a day to visit some places and explore on our own. Oh and what great day it was. From navigating on the subway, getting caught in a traffic jam, to making sure we got on the correct bus, everyone made it to their destination and back to the hotel safely. We would like to say a huge “Thank you” to our sponsors, to all of the schools we visited and especially to Dr. Jung Won Hur for all of her “heart” work to help make our visit a success.

Below are some pictures of Self-Exploration Day:

Nami Island Adventures



 

National Museum of Korean History

Flag at half mast in honor of Korean Memorial Day. 

Educators from Korea to the U.S; catching up with friends. 

We have become experts in navigating the subway. 

Have Your Dream

 

Our morning began with a drive across the Han River to the beautiful Hwaseong Fortress at Mt. Paldal, Suwon. This fortress was constructed by King Jeongjo the 22nd king of the Joseon Dynasty as a tribute to his father.

We began our morning with traditional Archery practice. There was a general explanation about Korean archery, and then a demonstration of correct shooting posture. We shot arrows where soldiers practiced martial art and got training more than 220 years ago.

We then boarded the Hwaseong Trolley and toured the Hwaseong Fortress. We were dropped off at the base of the Northeastern section where we hiked to the summit of Mt. Paldal. Our group was able to ring the bell of Filial Piety. The first toll was to show gratitude and respect to your parents. The second toll was a wish for your family’s health and harmony. The third toll was a wish for the realization of your dreams.

Suwon was a beautiful place that was a mixture of old and new. Visiting and learning about Korean history helps one understand the deep pride Koreans have for their country.

After a quick lunch, we visited Korea Job World. Every where we looked we saw the word DREAM. THE DREAM BELONGS TO THE DREAMER! A CHANGING WORLD OF DREAMS!PRECIOUS AND ENDURING DREAMS! HAVE YOUR DREAM!

Korea Job World was like walking into an EDUCATIONAL DREAM!The world’s largest job exhibition is a model for career development for preschool children to high school youth. This is a public institution under the Ministry of Employment and Labor that was created in 2012. The Korean government has invested over 220 million dollars helping their youth prepare for the future. Korean businesses also collaborate with Korea Job World. The goal of Korea Job World is to allow children and youth to explore various jobs and career paths with hands-on experience. This five floor facility includes a Children Experience Hall, Youth Experience Hall, Career Planning Hall, Job Exhibition Hall, the Naraewool Theater and the Hanwool Auditorium. Children visit Korea Job World on field trips. Today this facility was full of parents and children interacting in play based areas learning about careers!

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The Children Experience Hall targets children ages 4 – 10. It has 39 experience rooms show casing 50 jobs. Words simply can’t express all the learning we saw going on as we toured a bank, auto repair shop, beauty salon, cookie shop, recording studio, magician school, biotechnology research institute, animations studio, and an operating room just to name a few. This floor really took the concept of play as learning to a whole new level.

TheYouth Experience Hall has 44 experience rooms showcasing 66 jobs. Students ages 11 – 18 experience real job sites with more in-depth programs. Such experiences include an aircraft cockpit and cabin, and advertising agency, a graphic deign company, a game development company, a robotics research institute, and an architecture office. These experience rooms are led by experts in the field.

The Career Planning Hall is a personalized career planning area for middle and high school students. Students move through a career information zone, a career design counseling zone, and a self test zone. These play based test aim at exploring children’s ideal jobs based on their personality traits and talents.Students are able to check the results of the Talent Spectrum and Interest Quest and use the suggestions to experience jobs in the Youth Experience Zone.

The Job Exhibition Hall helps youth and children understand the importance and value of jobs through a time line on the history of jobs, changes in jobs, future jobs, employment statistics, and hidden workers in the work place. Once again we saw the value that the Korean culture places on jobs.

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The facility also includes a theater and auditorium that host classical music, family musicals, dramas, celebrity lectures and films.

The benefits of having a place where children and youth can explore career paths with hands on experience would have long term benefits to unemployment in the United States. This type of facility would help our children become leaders of the future and competitive in a growing job market. Enhancing Career Education and developing Vocational Skills must become a priority in the educational system in the United States.

If you visit Korea you must take a tour of Korea Job World!

http://www.koreajobworld.or.kr

We ended our evening with dinner from Linus’ Bama Style Barbecue on a side street in Itaewon! Hard to find but well worth the adventure.

 

The DMZ and JSA: Division and Comparative Perspectives

Earlier in the week, we listened to a lecture at Ewha Womans University from Dean Eun Mee Kim about global education. During her conversation with us, she talked about having students look at a their own country from an outsider’s perspective and looking at cultural differences as an asset in the classroom. Later in the week, Brian Ridgeway, a professor at Ewha, made a similar comment when discussing Korean culture. He stated that it is crucial we as teachers try to understand another culture from a comparative perspective. For me, comparing cultural perspectives and reflecting on those similarities with my students have become a goal for my instruction in the coming year. These are goals I would not have ever considered before this trip to South Korea. 

My focus for today while touring the DMZ and JSA was not to just understand what led to this land’s creation, but to try to better understand the current situation from multiple cultural perspectives. For our group, today was eye opening in the sense that it helped us better understand how South Korea has become what it is today. It has also helped us understand the heartbreaking tragedies that led to Korea’s current divide. Without the historical knowledge we learned today, I don’t think our trip to better understand the culture would be complete. 

Soojin, our amazing tour guide, began the trip to the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) and JSA (Joint Security Area) with a brief history of Korea from the end of the Joseon dynasty to the forming of the Military Demarcation Line (MDL). From 1950 to 1953, North and South Korea fought along the 38th parallel with the help of the U.S. and the Soviet Union. After numerous battles and many negotiations, all countries involved came to an agreement on July 27, 1953. 

Without the South Korean people being represented at the table, it was agreed on this day by the U.S., North Korea, and China that an armistice would be signed, but permanent peace was not achieved. It was most interesting to learn that South Korea was not allowed representation during this negotiation. I feel that this fact is one reason there is such tension among South Koreans about the idea of reunification. It makes me question how I would feel if another country made such a life-changing decision for me and my family without our voice being present during the conversation. Knowing this has helped me be more empathetic towards the struggle that many South Koreans must be facing with the idea of reunification. 

The DMZ

The 3rd Tunnel, discovered in October 1978, was our first stop. We rode a monarail 73 meters below the Earth’s surface and then walked through the very cramped tunnel. Capable of moving a full division per hour, it is scary to think what could have happened to Seoul had the tunnel not been discovered. It was most intriguing to hear that the North Korean government has denied building these tunnels leading to Seoul; four have been found, though there is believed to be more. I feel this is emblematic of the North Korean mindset. They refused to admit wrongdoing even through there was overwhelming evidence (the slope of the tunnel, the coal residue on the walls, and the dynamite blasts in every direction but the north) that it was them who did it. 


From the 3rd Tunnel, we drove to the Dora Observatory where we were able to see several North Korean landmarks as well Kijongdong, better known as “Propaganda Village.” It gets its name from the fact that it is not actually a city, just a bunch of empty buildings made to look prosperous from the outside. It is yet another example of North Korea’s attempt to hide the truth of their current economic state.

After the observatory, we made our way to Dorasan Station which is part of the Gyeongui Railroad that connects the Korean Peninsula to Asia. This railway is the closest station to North Korea and currently only travels through South Korea. The current division has made it impossible for South Korea to connect to the rest of Asia by land. This has made travel either very expense (by air) or very time-consuming (by sea). The hope is that one day travel by railway will be possible again for South Koreans. 

It wasn’t until we made our next stop at Imjingak that I began to understand the helplessness that this divide created for all Korean people, both North and South. When we arrived, we first walked to Mangbaedan, a permanent altar established by the South Korean government to honor ancestors and relatives who have been left behind in South Korea. Many come to this altar on important holidays to pay their respects. At Imjingak there is also the Freedom Bridge. This bridge was used to exchange roughly 12,773 POWs to the south after the war in 1953. My feelings after leaving Imjingak and reading about this area are that there are many Koreans who did not ask for this division and wish to see it reunified. It left me sad and more understanding of the intense division within the South Korean population on this matter. 

The Freedom Bridge
Mangbaedan Altar
Steam locomative derailed by bombs during the Korean War is now a symbol of the division between North and South Korea.

The JSA

After lunch, the next part of our tour was to Panmunjom or the JSA. Our bus took us through the Advance Camp. We were briefed on the area we would be visiting next and taken to a different bus. From there, we drove to the JSA. It was a hectic ten minutes. We walked through the Freedom House and made our way to the MAC conference room where we were able to cross the border into North Korea. It was a surreal moment for all of us. 

As we walked out of the blue conference room and back through the Freedom House, I was reminded of a story Soojin told us on our drive earlier that morning. She told us about Chung Ju-yung, the founder of Hyundai, and his successful escape from North Korea as a child. From an impoverished family with many siblings, Chung stole one cow from his father to pay his way to a new life. From nothing he built an empire and helped South Korea become the prosperous nation it is today. She went on to tell us that Chung fought hard to help the North Korean people prosper as well, traveling across the border with 1001 “unification cows” as a gift to the North Korean people. Like our stop at Imjingak, it made me try to see this division from both perspectives. 

Final Thoughts
Although interesting and eye-opening, most of our day spent touring the DMZ and JSA was actually quite sad and troubling for me. We had one foot in a prosperous land while the other weighed heavy in a country steadily falling behind. We straddled this intangible line of free and oppressed. On one side, I could feel the pride of the South Koreans as they retold the stories of their Phoenix-like rise from the ashes. On the other side, I could hear the sadness in their voices as they described what life was or could become for everyone in Korea. Reunification brings up thoughts of reunited families but also the likely chance of more death, more war, more loss. For some, there is no right answer. For others, there is only one right answer. But for me, to better understand this divide is to better understand Korean culture. I think that was the purpose of us visiting these sites today. I feel humbled. I feel grateful. I feel empowered to share my new knowledge of Korean history with my students back in Auburn, Alabama. And my hope is that all students and teachers begin to compare their own cultural perspectives so that we can all become more empathetic and compassionate educators and learners. 

Talks, Temples, and Trains

Because the city of Seoul does not awake until mid-morning, finding breakfast places can be a challenge. We discovered this quickly our second day here after we walked for many blocks in search of nourishment. Since then, we have sought out places that either operate 24 hours a day or have early hours. This morning several of us decided to begin our day at a familiar place that we knew would be open – Starbucks. After a delicious breakfast of pastries and coffee, which included talking and people watching, we were ready to tackle the adventures of the day.

Our first adventure of the day was visiting the Hanwha headquarters in Seoul. Hanwha Alabama has been a sponsor of this Global Studies in Education – South Korea trip since the beginning. Without their generosity, this once-in-a-lifetime trip for many of us would not be possible. Upon arrival at the company headquarters, we were graciously greeted by Dave Hwang, Assistant Manager of the Global Market Development Team. He took us to a plush conference room where his assistants served us Beans & Berries ice coffee while we watched an overview of the company. The driving force of this diverse, global company is their love of challenges, dedication, and quality. They are truly committed to creative thinking and advanced technology. Not only is Hanwha a leader in the automotive industry, but it is also a leader in renewable energies (solar panels), chemical research, department stores, insurance and finance, resort hotels, and apartment complexes. Hanwha also has a baseball team and stadium; however, it has not quite become the leader in that sport yet, according to Mr. Hwang. Considering how successful this company has been in every other venture, I’m sure it will not be long before baseball is added that that list.

I would be amiss, however, if I did not mention that the highlight of our visit was talking with Martin Kim, the Global CEO of Automotive and former CEO of Hanwha Alabama. According to Mr. Kim, “Education is very important.” He shared his dedication to the program as well as his appreciation for the teachers in Auburn and Opelika City Schools. His three daughters have all attended Auburn City Schools with the youngest being an incoming nineth-grader. When Mr. Kim returned to Korea last year, his daughters begged to stay in Auburn, which according to him, speaks well of the city and the school system. He spoke about Hanwha Alabama which originally brought his family to Auburn, and how there were struggles in the beginning stages of that plant with the blending of the American and Korean cultures; however, his concept of Hanwha being “one family, one team” soon bridged the gap. “Difference is difference, but should not be discrimination – we should understand and respect each other’s cultures” – Martin Kim. It is this mindset and vision that our Korea trip is founded on, giving opportunities for American teachers to study the Korean culture to better understand the diverse students and families they serve. At the end of our conservation, Dr. Hur presented Mr. Kim with an Aubie Tiger statue, which he loved. Mr. Kim, in turn, presented all of us with beautiful business card cases designed by Korean artists. Fortunately, our visit to Hanwba did not end there.

Next our group was escorted to the top floor of the building where we were treated to beautiful views, informative conversations, and delicious Korean cuisine. Although Mr. Kim could not join us, we were well accompanied by Youngbok-Choi, Vice President of the Global Market, and Dave Hwang. Both of these gentlemen entertained us and answered our many questions concerning Hanwba and Korean culture, explaining that work attitude is the key virtue that Korean companies are looking for in an employee. This work attitude includes diligence, commitment, and creativity. Both Mr. Choi and Mr. Hwang spent time just talking with all of us as though we were old friends while we dined. Our exquisite lunch consisted of vegetables boiled rice with assorted mixtures, seaweed soup with shrimp, fried chicken with hot & sour soy sauce salad, grilled yellow croaker, stir fried mushroom, boiled tofu, boiled peanuts, kimchi, and fruit/tea. Our adventure with the Hanwha “family” continued after lunch with Mr. Choi, Mr. Hwang, and their assistants escorting us along the Cheong Gye Cheon riverbank as we made our way to the Buddhist Temple.

Once we arrived at the temple, goodbyes were said to our new Hanwha family, and it was time for our next adventure to begin. The Jogyesa Temple, founded in 1910, is the central temple and symbol of Korean Buddhism. Buddhism, although founded in India, was originally brought to Korea by the Chinese. According to the Korean government website, Korea is 43% Buddhist, 35% Protestants, 21% Catholics, and 1% other. Therefore, it was necessary for us to learn more about Korean Buddhism to better understand the beliefs and practices of our Korean students and parents. We entered the temple through the One Pillar Gate which is symbolic of one mind. From there we traveled to the Brahma Bell Pavilion where we were introduced to the four temple instruments:  Dharma Drum, Wooden Fish, Cloud Gong, and Brahma Bell. These instruments are played in succession before the morning (4AM) and evening (6PM) chanting. The Brahma Bell is rung 28 times in the morning and 33 times in the afternoon to sound the dharma (truth) to all beings in the worlds and save them from suffering. From our outside tour, we entered the temple educational building where we were schooled in the fundamentals of Korean Buddhism by one of the monks, Jiin Sunim. Jiin taught us the required bows (Hapjung), self-reflection, meditation, and diet (rice cakes and green tea). Our group even had the opportunity to make paper flowers, similar to the ones given to Buddha, to bring home as souvenirs.

After learning about Buddhism, it was easy for our group to see the many similarities with Christianity. One of the meditation chants includes the verse, “With less thinking, less hating, and less worrying. It is simple. Put your mind at Now” which is comparable to Matthew 6:34NLT, “ So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Throughout scripture, we are reminded to “be still” and “lay our burdens at his [Christ] feet.” Another mediation chant includes the verse, “Who am I? Ask yourself. Ask until the inner face of you is revealed” which can be compared to Luke 11:9NLT “And so I tell you, keep on asking and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find.” The main difference is the followers of Buddhism are looking within themselves for the answers, whereas the followers of Christ are looking to Christ for the answers because they know he is “the way, the truth, and the life” – John 14:6.

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From the temple, our adventure continued as we boarded the crowded subway train to travel to dinner. Stop after stop people continued to board the train with very few departing. Our group barely had room to breath! We did however manage to find humor in our situation and worked together when our stop arrived, forging through the mass of passengers to depart the train. From the train station we travelled to Ewha Womans University to eat at Mr. Robbin, an Italian campus restaurant. The food was delicious, and the access to free WIFI was definitely an added bonus! Our group was able to reflect on our day and flood social media sites with updates and pictures from our many adventures.

Through this experience thus far we have learned the rich history of the Korean culture, including the struggles and triumphs; the beauty of Korean hospitality and friendship; the benefits of Korean work ethics held by both children and adults; and the contributions of the Korean companies to global advancements.

– Michele E.

Family


The morning started early, even though we had the chance to sleep late, many of us could hardly wait to get up and out in the city. We decided to have coffee and English muffin sandwiches. We were able to sit and enjoy our breakfast without the rush of making sure we were at school on time, or our kids were dressed and ready.

 

We were able to eat and talk with adults, which is every teacher’s dream. Our conversation quickly went to sharing about each of our family experiences from the night before. Some were moved to tears by the shear generosity of these families. They willingly welcomed us in to their homes and shared so much with us. They took complete strangers and let us be family for the night and sit at their tables and share some amazing food.

 

After breakfast we walked back to the hotel and had to make a few purchases on the way. Socks apparently are very fashionable in Korea and they are so cute. We each purchased socks, everyone making a remark as they would pick up a pair and smile. Some bought socks with silly sock day in mind for school, others with students in mind and their favorite characters.

 


Lunch today was American food at a great place called Ashley’s Grill. We enjoyed salad, spaghetti and even cheesecake for dessert. It felt really good to have a little taste of home.

 



We quickly made our way through Korea’s wonderful subway system. It amazes me how efficient they are. We even were able to walk through Bullomun in the subway. We feel younger already!

 

We took an English tour through Gyeongbokgung Palace. The Joseon Dynasty built Gyeongbokgung in 1395. The name means “The new dynasty will be greatly blessed and prosperous.” The palace was burned in 1592 during the Japanese invasion and was finally rebuilt in 1867.

 

Geunjeongjeon Hall is the main throne hall where state functions were held. It is decoratively painted to help preserve the wood. It was very expensive to decorate the structures with the paintings therefore only royal palaces and buildings use this decoration. The royal throne sits at the middle of the great hall. Elaborate decorations are painted all along the ceiling. Golden dragons in the ceiling represent the kings that rule over the land.

 

The buildings were protected by wire netting at the top to prevent birds from destroying the building more quickly. Long ago silk nets were used to protect the buildings from birds.


You will notice the signs located at the top of the entrance are written with Chinese characters. This is because Korea did not have an alphabet yet. Even though people spoke Korean they would write in Chinese; therefore, only the upper class were literate. During the Joseon dynasty the Korean alphabet, hangeul, developed in this hall in the photo above know as Sujeongjeon Hall.

 

Sajeongjeon Hall was the king’s office where he handled state affairs. Located in the office are small desk where the secretaries were to record the state affairs, their record was not to be read even by the king to ensure their accuracy of record keeping. The building was made of wood to help keep cool in the summer and there were stone and clay areas for the winter where there was an under system. The under system was used in the winter to heat the floors since Koreans usually sit on the floor. This is why Koreans will remove their shoes before entering their homes and why homes are kept very clean. The king’s palace used charcoal to heat the under. While charcoal was more expense than wood it created less smoke and a warmer fire. The smoke would pass through and exit the chimney.

 

 Gyeonghoeru Pavilion is where the king held banquets.

 


Gangnyeongjeon Hall was the king’s bedchamber; Gyotaejeon Hall was the queen’s bedchamber. Being a Confucius society the king and queen had separate chambers.

 

After a short rest and water break we headed out to try on the traditional hanbok. The hanbok is usually vibrant colors and is worn for formal or semi-formal traditional occasions. We had a great time trying on the outfits and it was so much fun taking photos in them. I could just imagine my students faces if they saw a photo of me in the beautiful dress.

 

Opelika City Schools Representing, O-Town yeah!

 

We then were able to try cooking some traditional Korean foods. We made noodles, kimchi, and jeon (which is similar to a pancake, but way better).

 

Some of us teased that we better take photos so our children saw that we actually cooked something that wasn’t out of the can or box.

 

We were then able to enjoy the fruits of our labor. The food was delicious!
 

After our meal we just weren’t ready to go home yet. We visited Myeong-dong Cathedral, which is the first parish church in Korea.

 


The stained glass windows depict stories of the Bible and the Mysteries of the Rosary.

 

We eagerly walked and took the subway to a Korean bookstore called Kyobo. We found many books for the classroom in Korean and English to help our Korean students.

 

Even on the subway in Seoul, Korea we find members of the Auburn Family. This alumni’s jaw dropped as we entered the subway cart and he excitedly said war eagle as the doors shut. It was so wonderful to find a part of home so far away. While Auburn University taught me so much as a student, the Korean family has extended that knowledge with the same resonating feeling of family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learning, Laughter, Fun


Learning. Laughter. Fun. These three words are just some that I would use to describe our day in Seoul.

Beginning first thing a few of us found ourselves wandering around in search of a delicious breakfast. They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, right? So what do we choose, why McDonalds of course! We went conduct high-quality research on whether Korean McDonalds are similar to American McDonalds. What can we say it was important contribution to science. Our findings were that for the most part it is very similar! 


After our “healthy” breakfast we began our daily walk to Ewha Womans University where we took a tour of EWU Kindergarten. This kindergarten exemplified child-centered learning (John Dewey based principles) from the moment of walking (without our shoes) through the inviting front doorway. The Assistant Director of the school provided our group with an enlightening introduction before conducting some classroom observations. We learned that this school serves around 144 3, 4, and 5 year old children and hosts 20 teachers with additional aides. 

This particular kindergarten also serves as an internship and practicum placement for those undergraduate students majoring in education at EWU. The school focuses on student-driven thematic units. For example, in one classroom we were caught-up in a web of learning centered around spiders. We were awed by a student-designed spider web in a classroom web backed by a green screen. This allowed the class to create animated movies and videos about spiders. 


The classrooms at each age level were bright and filled to the brim with learning tools and resources. Every classroom was equipped with musical instruments, paints, papers, building blocks, manipulatives, work stations, plants, animals, etc. It exemplified in my mind what an ideal learning environment would look like. Our group arrived in the students’ classroom right at snack time. Sweet potatoes and milk. Not bad, right? Interestingly enough, you don’t see teachers serving the 3-5 year olds but the students serving themselves. They pour their own milk, fix their own trays, cut their own food, and clean up their own area. I believe that our entire group stared speechless for a few minutes before gathering ourselves enough to move on. The amount of self-discipline and autonomy is instilled at such a young age is just baffling. 


Another unique aspect of the school was each class was equipped with one-way mirrors for observational purposes. The school seemed to be meticulous in design and thought. The walls in the hallway were adorned with student work or student problem solving activities. One unique aspect of the school was a slide down the side of a staircase. Of course several group members wanted to give the slide a test, but unfortunately it wasn’t an option. This slide down the staircase was only to be utilized if there was a fire or if it was a fire drill. I won’t name names (Ha!) but some of us decided to become Ron Clark “Slide-Certified” in South Korea.


 Another key area was the beautiful outdoor learning area. We witnessed apron-wearing students taking part in a lesson about liquid volume. They were filling containers with different amounts of liquid and measuring per the teacher’s direction. This area also hosted a small field, playground, student garden, etc. 


This observation definitely set the tone for the rest of our day. The Kindergarten along with the rest of the EWU has a rich history. It opened in 1914 with only 16 students in a hotel across from EWU. The Kindergarten has moved locations as well as reconfigured several times from Jeongdong Kindergarten in 1921 to Shinchon Ewha Kindergarten in 1936. Strong emphasis after the school’s conception was placed on the involvement of mothers in their student’s education. Due to this, a Mother’s Association was created. In 1958, both Kindergarten campuses merged together to create one cohesive learning organization. The campus we visited today was constructed in 1985 and continues to instruct Korean children from the surrounding area. One quote that shows the philosophy of this school that was seen in our presentation about the school said, “Under the principle that children can discover and learn by them selves having the unlimited potentials, all teaching staffs of Ewha Kindergarten are doing their best in order for them to be a truthful wise child, good children, and beautiful-natured children. This passion will go on continuously.”


Our second stop of the day was to the world-renowned EWU Elementary School. One of the first things that captured our attention was the bible verse, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” up on the wall in the front lobby area. This school like the others was founded by a Christian missionary. The principal and vice principal of the school prepared a delicious Korean snack for us before we began our tour.


 The celebration of the history of this school is clearly illustrated in the museum that was erected in the school to commemorate their 60th anniversary. This museum rivaled any national museum I had ever been in. Our group was divided into smaller groups where we had about 45 minutes to observe an English class. The English class I observed was 4th grade and had 10 students comprised of 5 girls and 5 boys. I was so impressed with the level of instruction that was taking place. Students were identifying animals and their characteristics from pictures on the interactive whiteboard. Since it was a holiday the day before, the teacher was reviewing over previously reviewed material. Students saw puzzle piece images on the screen and from the pieces had to correctly identify the animal. They then had to read aloud sentences about that animal and its characteristics. Students took a quiz that allowed the teacher to formatively assess their learning followed by a group activity that had students identifying more characteristics of animals. I believe it was a group consensus that we also learned English while we were observing! 


 We continued our time in the elementary school by observing several other classrooms like music, art, broadcast, and science. One of the highlights of the school is an in-house planetarium. The planetarium was purchased through school donations and can be used by the community as well. We finished our time at the school through a short presentation created by the faculty. This video focused on the values and beliefs held by the school which included: love and service, a solid foundation of basic skills, creative problem solving abilities, pleasure and beauty, dreaming of a bigger world, and become leaders with serving and loving hearts. Our time at the elementary wasn’t nearly long enough, but as I said it is world-renowned so sure enough another group of educators from Hong Kong were eagerly waiting to enter the school as we were leaving. 


Our next stop was to have a traditional lunch at the EWU faculty cafeteria. It was a great opportunity for many of us to reflect on our experiences with one another and share them with those we love (post them to Facebook). After full tummies and possibly a little lingering jet-lag we made our way over to our conference room where Dr. Insoo Oh explained to us the Korean student and emerging issues found in Korean schools. There were numerous take-aways from this session however I think one of the most discussed issues was the Wang-ta or bullying taking place and what the government along with schools have done to combat this issue. We learned that Wang-ta or bullying became a prevalent issue in the 1990’s and the Korean government took initiative in 2004 after a critical suicide case. They created a plan that included mandatory school violence prevention education twice a year in every school. These classes are attended by teachers, students, and parents. In 2005, a more comprehensive plan was put in place and it was called the 5-year plan. This 5-year plan came with a manual that divided Wang-ta or bullying into 7 different categories. Physical, Cyber, Sexual, Relational, Forced Errand, Verbal, and Material Theft. After three, five year cycles the government still noticed a lingering problem with bullying. So beginning in 2012, committing one of the seven types of bullying came with pretty severe penalties. The government enacted these penalties in better efforts to prevent bullying. Research shows since 2012 that these efforts have been successful in lowering the amount of bullying taking place in Korean schools. Dr. Oh also showed us through the efforts of EWU a 10-step program was created to promote character education in classrooms. Many of us volunteered to help pilot it in our schools once they had it published in English. Another interesting aspect of Korean education that Dr. Oh shared with us is that although Korean students are some of the highest achieving in the world they are some of the unhappiest according to the PISA survey. To help with this, the government is working towards having guidance counselors in every school. Right now 80% of schools in Korea are without a guidance counselor. Students are now given questionnaires at different points during their school years to evaluate their mental health. This lecture was truly insightful and gave us another great peek into the Korean educational system. 


The BIG end to our afternoon was our KPop dance class. The poor ACTION dance team from EWU just didn’t know what they had coming. I am pretty sure we blew them away with our amazing dance moves.


 I am not sure our hips, chest, or body knew how to move in some of those ways. 




However, in hilarious fashion we all had a fantastic time. It was fun to laugh and have some down time (literally we were down on the floor and had trouble getting up) with one another. 


We also decided to even show our Korean dance teachers a traditional American dance. What was it? The Wobble! They didn’t seem as impressed with our cool moves although I’m not sure why. Overall, we definitely have some memories with one another that we surely won’t ever forget! I am also going to hope those videos of us dancing never surface. To end our evening, we all partnered off to have dinner with a Korean student(s) and their family. Some of us were taken to nice restaurants for meals while others were welcomed into homes for dinner. While everything so far has been beyond exceptional this for most of us this was the most powerful as well as meaningful experience. The love, kindness, and generosity we all felt was truly extraordinary. The rapport and relationships built with these families will extend beyond just this trip. We vowed to continue to keep in contact so we can continue to learn from one another.

-Brittney D.

From Ewha Womans University to the City of Seoul

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The group began their morning by enjoying breakfast at a local coffee shop. To our surprise there were many American options available such as breakfast sandwiches, bagels, and pretzels.

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The group then headed to Ewha Womans University which is a private college that was established in 1886. The three virtues of Ewha Womans University are truth, goodness, and beauty.  There were two lectures scheduled for the day. Dr. Tae Seob Shin and Mr. Brian Ridgeway who is a native of Auburn, Al. Dr. Shin’s topics were Understanding Korean Students: Psychological Perspective and Issues in South Korea’s Education. Dr. Shin spoke on the mindset theory by Carol Dweck which focuses on how students view their own ability to learn. Dr. Shin also mentioned how the government has placed a ban on advanced learning in public schools. Public schools can focus on clubs, but the clubs can’t be academic related. Parents must pay for shadow education, cram schools, or private tutoring. Mr. Ridgeway focused on the cultural aspect of South Korea. The Korean culture is based on Confucianism. Confucianism is based on a system of ethics and morals that create a collectivist harmonious society.

 

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After traveling fifteen hours across the World there are reminders of Alabama in Seoul. During our lunch break, we went into downtown Seoul. The restaurant served a variety of traditional Chinese foods and desserts set up buffet style similar to Golden Corral.

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Anxiously awaiting our next adventure, we loaded the shuttle and then traveled to Bukchon which is the Northern part of Seoul. While in Bukchon, there were many traditional style homes which are a replication of the past.

 

 

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A trip to the Tongin Market was quite the adventure. Vendors were selling fresh sea food, fresh cut beef, and food that had been cooked. After walking around the Tongin Market and other local shops, a small café provided a refreshing drink. The drink was a cranberry juice which was served in a beautiful bowl. The inside of the café was gorgeous. The tables were embellished with handwritten letters from previous customers.

 

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Seoul Tower was built in 1969 and was used for broadcasting and signaling. The Seoul Tower is located in the Namsan Mountains. It was open to the public in 1980. Tourist can hike a trail  or take a cable car to the Tower. Tourist also visit the tower and lock their love. Heart shaped padlocks can be purchased and then placed on the railings and fences at the bottom of the tower.

 

 

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It was time for dinner and the group headed to The Bulgogi Brothers restaurant. The table was embellished with a variety of Korean cuisine. Of course Bulgogi was served.

The last item on our agenda was to visit the Changgyeong Palace. Changgyeong palace was the third palace that was built during the Joseon Dynasty. The palace was designed for elderly people of the royal family to reside in. The palace showcases a lotus pond and a green house. The halls and other buildings have been built, taken down, and rebuilt with history.

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A Culture of New Experiences

Day 1 of Auburn’s Global Studies began with a continental breakfast of mostly traditional foods such as eggs, bacon, and toast with a few items that were a bit unusual  such as spaghetti, potato soup, and rice! But everyone found something delicious to eat!

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The next part of our day began by going to the bank to exchange American dollars to Korean won. The exchange rate was 1148.69 won per dollar, so $100 =114,869 won. The cost of items seem to be similar to the US depending on location. The won comes in denominations of 1000, 5000, 10000, 50000, and 100000, is colorful, and easy to distinguish from each other.

The group’s first stop after the bank was to Ewha Womans University, the sponsor for the trip, headed by Dr. Insoo Oh. We took a short tour of the university learning that it was started with one student taught by a Christian missionary, Mary Scranton, in 1886. Currently, the enrollment is 25000 women (with a few international men) learning in 12 colleges and 15 graduate programs.

 

After touring the university, we went to Ewha Guemran Middle School and were met by the principal, assistant principal, and senior teacher. As a private Christian school, the government chooses who attends and provides 70% of its funding. The middle school houses 564 students in 7th to 9th grades with 50 teachers. Students study 10 subjects in various daily schedules of 6 to 7 classes per day in 45 minute periods. The school year is divided into 2 semesters which are from March to July and from August to February with vacations in January and August. Students also have 37 clubs and activities to choose from for special class periods and after school.

 

Lunch was traditional Korean food at a restaurant with other professors at Ewha. The food was delicious but hard to describe…but it is pretty, colorful, tasty, spicy, unusual, and varied.

After lunch we visited Ewha High School which is a private school, but receives no government funding. Students must apply, take an entrance exam, and pay tuition which is about $5000, which is only slightly lower than Korean university tuition. In return parents expect the students to be accepted into top tier universities. There were 1200 students in grades 10 to 12 which are taught by 80 teachers. Students finish school in the afternoon but most students stay until 10:30 p.m. in study rooms supervised by 4 teachers who are paid hourly in addition to their salaries. Students study to the exclusion of all other activities in order to do well on college entrance exams and to be accepted to top universities which then will help them find the best spouses and get the best jobs. Even during holidays, students often pay for extra classes or tutoring to begin learning for the next semester. This academic push begins in upper elementary and extends all the way through college.

Our last stop for the day was back at Ewha University for a lecture on Global Education and Studies by Dr. Eun Mee Kim. She explained the university’s research and programs to end preteen and teen pregnancy in 3rd world countries, the partnership between Ewha and Harvard University, and the education programs being developed in Cambodia.

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For our evening’s entertainment, we traveled by subway to Korea House to see a multi-media music and drama performance of Sin Cheong, a filial daughter who gave her own life for her blind father, but was rewarded with being saved, falling in love, and marrying the king. But best of all, being reunited with her father who had been searching for her.

We Have Arrived

On May 28th, the group boarded their plane at the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. After enduring an 15 hour flight on Korean Air filled with movies, food, great service, and of course sleep, the group arrived at the Incheon International Airport in South Korea.

Once the overly excited group arrived at the airport, they took a shuttle to Seoul, South Korea. While traveling from Incheon to Seoul, the group saw many  interesting, beautiful, and uniques sites and images along the way. Upon arriving in Seoul, the group checked into their hotel, Ever 8, which is located in the heart of downtown Seoul. Many of the group members had a very “entertaining” entrance into their actual hotel room. Trying to figure out how to operate the different amenities in the hotel room, became a scavenger hunt for some.

After settling into their rooms, the group went to dinner at NENE CHICKEN. Dinner was filled with different flavors of chicken from snowing cheese to oriental green onion to gang jung chicken.

After dinner, half of the group took a “mini” tour of downtown Seoul. The weather was beautiful with a light breeze. While walking downtown Seoul, the group embraced the deep Korean culture represented though the fashion, architect, music, and food. Along the way, the group saw several restaurants and stores that are also in the United States, such as Burger King, McDonald’s, Outback Steak House, and of course several Starbucks. The group even saw a Krispy Kreme with the “HOT” light on!

The group’s first day in Seoul was another great bonding opportunity for, as well as an exciting way to start our time here in Korea as we embark upon this journey with the mindset to “Impact the soul while in Seoul.”

Posted by L. Terry

 

Driving Closer to our Departure

It was Friday afternoon on April 22nd and the group was greeted with smiles and friendly faces at the front doors of the Kia Motors plant. Everyone was buzzing with excitement to begin our tour.

Once the whole group arrived, we were escorted to a separate building (shown above on left) and into a meeting room where we were introduced to Mr. Yun Tae Kim, a native of South Korea who now works for Kia Motors. He began his passionate speech by exclaiming how lucky our group was to have the opportunity to experience South Korea in all its glory. Mr. Kim claimed that Seoul is a city he would love to return to whenever he has a chance, and had many other great things to say about the country.

Another representative from Kia was eager to share a powerpoint with us containing loads of information about Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia. He began by showing us a few videos that exemplified Kia’s slogan: The Power to Surprise. The group was drawn into the various scenes, and began to get a feel for the passion that Kia Motors has for everything they are a part of. The group learned that Kia recently donated 1.5 million dollars to help local communities after tornados hit Georgia. We discovered that their presence alone in the city of West Point, GA has given the town new life, and has a huge impact on community growth. This Kia plant is currently the only one in the United States, and it has provided job stability to over 3,000 employees.

Although there were tons of interesting facts given to us, a few pieces of information the group took away from the presentation were:

-Kia produces a vehicle every 57 seconds
-Test drivers are their most needed job
-Kia has over 6 miles of assembly in the paint building alone
-Out of the 360,000 cars made last year, only 19 were deemed not road worthy

Little did the group know this was just the beginning of all the amazing facts we would soon find out. The picture shown below is an aerial view of the entire plant!

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Next, we were given headsets and ushered outside to begin our guided tour of the plant. The group split up onto two golf carts, and everyone tuned in our headsets and put on our protective glasses (shown below) to hear what our guide had to tell us as he drove us through the giant campus. The group was amazed by the beauty of the landscape as we rode around and heard about the underground shelters, 24 hour fitness center, health/med center, and dining area that is provided to all employees.

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As we entered the first building, (labeled WELD in the picture shown above), it was apparent that Kia uses the latest technology. The use of such advanced and powerful equipment is what enables them to produce so many vehicles per year. Everywhere we turned we saw robot arms that were programmed to eliminate some of the more difficult manual labor jobs. The group got to see a snippet of each part of the various cars and SUVs being manufactured, by both people and machines.

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As we drove out of the first and into the second building, we got to see a glimpse of the various cars moving slowly through the automated assembly line in a skywalk from one building to another. The group noted that there wasn’t just one type of car being built at a time but rather different makes and models all mixed in together.

The second building the group entered (labeled GENERAL ASSEMBLY in the picture shown above) was filled with countless employees, each performing a specific task. We learned that during a normal 8 hour workday, one employee will have 4 different jobs, switching stations about every 2 hours to keep them from falling into a lull doing the same task over and over. All of the employees in this building must work as one unit along the assembly line, and they each must complete their specific part correctly to create the perfect vehicle. The working conditions seemed more than ideal, with cushioned floors and adjustable heights to work from to avoid discomfort. Each group of workers had a break area, and we even noticed that the cafeteria had a Korean BBQ option!

As the tour concluded, everyone in the group exclaimed how amazed they were with the work that goes on behind the scenes at Kia Motorways. Each woman commented that they would be sure to spread word to our students and co-workers that working at Kia is an achievable dream for all of ours students graduating with a high school degree. The group was immensely thankful for the kindness and thoughtfulness of all the Kia employees for making us feel welcome. They even surprised each of us with a gift at the end, a Kia thermos cup! This is not an experience we will soon forget, and it drives us one step closer to South Korea.