One of the largest parts of my life in Korea for far is unfortunately a temporary one: Korean Class. This has been a huge source of joy for me, but also something that makes life much more busy.
Only next week our class will be over. It’s only been a little over two months! How can my class be over? It’s because the 한국어학당 or Korean Language department has switched from the semester system to the quarter system to better accommodate the foreign abroad programs that so many students use to visit Hannam University. It’s only the Korean Language department that has switched to this system, and only recently, so we will only have these two months of language class. This of course has its pros and cons. Pros being we will have more free time a lot sooner. Cons being we’ll have less time to learn Korean, and less time with our classmates and teachers whom I’ve grown quite fond of.
We have four hours of class a day Monday through Friday, and three different Korean teachers who rotate throughout the week. Let me introduce my wonderful teachers to you:
This is 이선생님 or Mrs. Lee (though this name is strange for me to see given I’ve never heard it spoken like that). She is really silly. She jokes about her many 남자친구 (boyfriends) all over the world, and her example for beautiful was herself. She is always sad when we post photos of get-togethers in our group chat that she wasn’t invited to. The photo is from an exercise we did to create two families. So this is half of the class in one “family.”
Unfortunately I don’t have many pictures of my other two teachers. Something I hope to correct. 신선생님 (Mrs. Shin) is in this picture in the far back right next to me. This is a photo from when our class went out to eat chicken after our midterms.
She is the one who assigns us the most homework, but we also see her the most. She is our speaking teacher, and while she has a stern appearance she is really sweet. She always encourages us to study more, but many a times she’s let me turn in homework late (some things never change).
Here is a picture of 황선생님(Mrs. Hwang) on our first day of class. She is the youngest teacher we have and she is very stylish and cute. She draws amusing things on the board and explain vocabulary through stories, which I enjoy a lot.
Not all the YAVs are in one Korean class. There are actually two level one classes, and Will, Emily, and I are in this one. I feel really lucky to be in this class because our class atmosphere is really playful, and the teachers make the lessons really clear. I never feel scared to ask a question.
Aside from the lessons themselves, our classmates are awesome. They’ve been such an enriching part of being in Korea. There are no Koreans in our class aside from the teachers. In order of quantity of students there are the most Chinese students (8 of them or so?), followed by 3 YAVs (we’re the only 미국사람 Americans), then there are 2 Indonesian students, 2 Mongolian students, 1 Filipino student, 1 Uzbekestani student, and 1 Taiwanese student. I hope I’m not forgetting anybody.
[Note: I can definitely feel my native-English speaker privilege because the class is taught mostly in Korean and English with Chinese coming in as a third language sometimes. I can see how this class would be much more difficult if I was not Chinese American.]
Our class has a Kakao talk group chat (Kakao is a popular chat program used in Korea) where we share photos and talk with our teachers. We have spent time outside of class with our classmates as well. The YAVs hosted a Halloween party which was mainly attended by our classmates.
We’ve gone out to eat with classmates, gone on a trip to a mountain, and played pool. Perhaps not all of us all the time, but they are people we spend time with.
Academically my Korean has vastly improved because of the class. I can now use the past, present, and future tenses, and have learned a number of other grammar structures. Those may take more practice to actually use, but I’ve got time to master those. We have done exercises for how to buy things, and how to give directions in a taxi. My vocabulary is much greater now than when I started as well. Our plan to continue after this class may involve some online learning and Korean tutors from here on out.
Overall my class has brought me a lot of joy and a lot of friendships I would not have otherwise had. I also realize what a privilege it is even as a YAV to have a language course provided for us. We are the only site that has this privilege. Now our final is approaching just next week (November 18th is graduation), and I can’t help but be a bit sad that it’s ending so soon. Thankfully many of our classmates are moving onto the second level of Korean, so they will still be in Korea. For the YAVs our lives will be shifting again very soon. It’s been fun being a student again after a two year hiatus (if this counts as being a student again). I’m thankful I had the opportunity to be on this journey with these people, and I wanted to share with all of you this part of my life before it was over.
I am still in need of funds for my trip. Will you help me?