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maggie johnston, south korea, 2015-2016
Fulbright Scholar Maggie Johnston

Fulbright Year: 2015-2016
Country: South Korea
Proposal Type: English Teaching Assistantship
UGA Undergraduate Major: Sociology
Graduation Date: Fall 2013 (Bachelor’s)
Hometown: Chattanooga, Tennessee

Maggie Johnston has possessed an abiding love of language and sound as long as she can remember, and with her future plans to work as a speech language pathologist, teaching English in South Korea seems like the perfect setting to continue to sharpen her craft.

“I find the Korean language presents a fascinating contrast to the English language,” Maggie says. “Though its origins are still being debated, Korean is generally believed to be a language isolate, developed independently of all other languages.”

Maggie, who also speaks Portuguese and Spanish, says improving her Korean language skills will prove beneficial in her career pursuits.

“The depth of linguistic and cultural fluency I can gain by living in the Korean countryside as an English teacher and language learner myself would be invaluable for me professionally and for my community when working with learners of English in the future,” she says. “Teaching English would allow me to learn what Korean English language learners find the most challenging about English, be it grammar structures, phonemes or cultural factors.”

While a UGA student, Maggie spent most of 2013 in Brazil as part of the Portuguese Flagship Program, an intensive language immersion program funded by the Department of Defense and the NSEA. Besides teaching English in Brazil, she also taught English in her hometown of Chattanooga – which has a substantial Korean population – as part of the Neema Refugee Resettlement Program, and for two years was a volunteer at the Athens Area Boys & Girls Club. In addition, for the year prior to the grant, Maggie served as a substitute teacher in Chattanooga schools, working most closely with special education classrooms.

Maggie, who has also undertaken a study abroad experience in Ireland, looks forward to assuming the role of cultural ambassador. She is very excited about living in Mokpo, a coastal city in the southwestern tip of the Korean Peninsula, and looks forward to getting to know well her students at her placement, the Mokpo Hyein Girls’ High School. In her extra time, she will volunteer with the Korean Bridge Initiative, which provides free English Language tutoring to low-income students to help reduce the education gap created by expensive after-school academies.

“The experience will help me better empathize with and understand my foreign clients in a few years’ time, which is my ultimate goal,” Maggie, who intends to pursue a master’s degree in speech and language pathology after her Fulbright term, says. “It is my sincere hope that this experience will help me to better understand – both culturally and linguistically – and therefore better serve a vital but often overlooked portion of my own community.”

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