Fulbright Year: 2010-2011
Country: South Korea
Proposal Type: English Teaching Assistant
UGA Undergraduate Majors: Film Studies, English
Graduation Date: May 2010
Hometown: Athens, GA
As an English teacher on a small island south of the South Korean coast, John Keith spent his Fulbright year utilizing a variety of media to help his students – whom he referred to as “high-leveled and highly inquisitive” -- in the learning process. And he eventually became part of the media on the island of Jeju, working as a film critic for the community’s English-language paper, the Jeju Weekly.
Suffice it to say that John found an extremely comfortable niche for himself so many miles away from home.
“I lived with a fantastic host family who were quick to show me the many outdoor activities available on the island, ranging from water sports to hiking the tallest mountain in South Korea,” he says. “Really, my time spent living with a Korean family was the most incredible part of my year. I learned more about Korean culture and about myself from the homestay experience than any other part of my Fulbright grant year.
“I truly came to love and respect South Korea during my time living there, with my only regret being that I could only spend a year immersed in its fascinating culture. I believe my time there has inspired me to continue my work in the field of education. I hope one day to again be able to travel to Korea, in either a professional or personal capacity, to visit the friends and colleagues that I grew close to during my grant year.”
John adds that technology reminded him how close – and how far away – he was from home.
“Living and working in Korea for a year made me realize how small the world is these days,” he says. “Though I was thousands of miles from my family and friends in America, I was able to communicate with them on a daily basis, making that gap seem almost negligible at times. That said, my time spent in the Korean classroom teaching about American culture to my students made me realize how great that distance still can be. The misconceptions about lifestyles in America were often hilarious and always instructive.”
While celebrating the holiday of Chesuok with his host family was a memorable occasion during his tenure in South Korea, John says he’ll never forget a fishing trip with his host family.
“All of my favorite memories of the year come from my time with my host family,” he says. “After an entire afternoon spent fruitlessly trying to hook anything at all to contribute to the evening meal, I finally landed one with the help of my host brother. My entire host family cheered and made me take a picture with my prized fish. The meal we ate that night of the freshly caught raw fish was the best I experienced the entire year.”
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