End of Year One: Reflection
Hello everyone! It's been about 6 weeks since I've finished my first year but I have officially completed year one of my Fulbright experience. It has been a crazy journey but also extremely rewarding and gratifying. The last few weeks of the year (2021) was extremely busy with preparations for the end of the year. Since I taught 6th graders, by the time I come back next year (2022), the students will be in middle school. I decided to make little goodbye gifts for them (customized stickers, customized cards and American candies) and because I was doing that, I ended up doing it for everyone at my small school and all of my 4th graders too, that was over 400 students in total. It ended up being way more than I thought but honestly, I'm happy that I did it because the students really enjoyed them. I was able to take pictures with all of my students and got to say goodbye. My last week at school felt like a blur because I was so busy with packing to go back to the States but also busy with saying goodbye to my students, school, boxing community, host family and most importantly my Fulbright friends.
My last day of school was December 17th, and it was an emotional day. I did not think I would cry but I ended up crying after seeing some of my students cry when they were saying their goodbyes. It surprised me that I had enough impact on them that they would miss me. The last day just reminded me that any person can have a small contribution to others life and can have a positive impact. Throughout the entire year, my students had shown me patiences and kindness as a foreigner and as their teacher. Having no prior experience in teaching or Korean culture, I fumbled my way around but the kindness from the students was always present and made me feel more comfortable during this entire year. Because the 6th graders were my first ever teaching experience, I will forever cherish them and think fondly of them whenever I think back to this experience. After my last day of school, I had to say goodbye to my other Korean friends and host family. Again, my Korean community and host family made my experience such a wonderful thing and it truly would not have been the same if not for them. I'm excited to go back to them for my second year and build our relationships even further during year two.
On December 18th, I left for Seoul for my last trip with my Fulbright friends before flying back home to the States. I truly believe the number one thing that made my entire year as amazing as it was, were my Fulbright friends. I never thought I would have made such wonderful lifelong friends but I did and they made the experience so much greater. The countless memories I have of my year one experiences contain so much of my friends. The Seoul trip was our last "hoorah" since Matthew and I were the only ones renewing out of our core group of friends. We knew this would be it for at least a couple of years before we could all see each other again back in the States. The Seoul trip was amazing partly due to the foods we got to eat, the sites that we saw but mostly due to just being able to hang out and talk with each other. I honestly can't tell how many countless hours we have just sat and talked to each other about our life and what's been going on but it's been a lot of hours. I think ending year one in Seoul was perfect because Seoul is a beautiful city that seems magical at times. It also snowed in Seoul while I was there, which made it even more pretty and wonderful. Seoul is most definitely a city were you need a lot of time to explore all of it, but I was only their for four days so I only saw the basics of Seoul and hopefully next year, I will be able to see more. Anyhow, I stayed in Seoul, South Korea until December 23rd which was my flight date.
On December 23rd I left for Incheon Airport at 5:00am and started my 23 hour journey home to Minnesota. The journey home was uneventful which was quite nice and everything went smoothly. My first flight was at 9:00am from Incheon Airport to Detroit Airport in Michigan which was a 16 hour flight. Then I had a four hour layover and went from Detroit to Minneapolis which was only a 90 minute flight. After arriving at MSP, I met my parents and was able to be home for the Christmas holidays. It has been really nice to be back home and spend time with my family as I have missed them (obviously). I honestly, don't think I would have applied for a second year if I wasn't able to go home and visit my parents between the two years. Overall, I've missed my parents and glad I was able to see them and hangout with them before my second year grant. I leave in less then a week and writing this blog has made me realize how lucky and blessed I've been for the opportunities and experiences I've been given. I will never forget year one and count myself lucky for all that has happen. For 2022, I hope and wish for everyone to have a safe and healthy year as well as a year filled with great memories. See you in the next blog!
*** P.S: I've updated and have loaded more photos on the Flickr site if you all would like to see more pictures. To check that out, go to the photos tab and click on the button for the Flickr site.
To see how truly beautiful our world is, I've uploaded some of my favorite pictures that I've taken throughout the year in South Korea. South Korea is an extremely beautiful country and I'm always amazed by the landscapes.
Seoul, South Korea (Austin, Matthew & Diana - my closest friends in Korea)
Jeju Island, South Korea (Taken during Hallasan hike)
Gyeongsan (my home city), South Korea (Taken during the cherry blossom season)
Gyeongju, South Korea (Burial mounds)
Gyeongju, South Korea
Busan, South Korea (Persimmons during peak season)
Gyeongju, South Korea (Pink field of grass)
Gyeongju, South Korea
Gyeongju, South Korea
Pohang, South Korea
Jeju Island, South Korea
Daegu, South Korea (My Korean friend walking his dog)
Gyeongsan (my home city), South Korea
Jeju Island, South Korea (half way up to the peak of Hallasan mountain)