It’s crazy almost six years ago, I made myself a goal to travel to a different country every single year. People may view this as crazy, but I consider it to be “living life to the fullest” type of ambition. I was fortunate, my first international experience was my study abroad opportunity in Seoul, South Korea at Dankook University the summer of 2011. The study abroad program was broken into two programs. The first program was called The English Village. The English Village was a unique internship program where we taught conversational English to DKU students. I led small groups in daily language classes for four weeks before continuing onto the academic program, which was the second program. The Academic Program consists of four weeks of intensive classes taught by international and/or Korean professors. Classes will be conducted in English. Each class will meet four days a week for two hours per day. Students may take up to six credits.” 

Arriving at Seoul’s Incheon International Airport was like stepping onto a movie set, the ambiance was extremely modern and high-tech. Signs were written in both Korean and English, making it easy to figure out where I needed to go. The terminal was clean, aesthetically pleasing, and had fantastic high glass ceilings. At the baggage claim Dankook University representatives welcomed me, each wearing the university’s blue T-shirt.

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Dankook University’s main campus was located in Yongin Jukjeon, about a forty-five minute drive from the airport. While the other students talked amongst themselves, I decided to sit in the back and truly soak in the scenery. There were virtually zero American cars. I saw more than a few Renault Samsungs, a Hyundai Sonata and a Kia Carnival, none of which were adhering to the KPH speed limit. I was enjoying what I was seeing. This country had a personality all its own. Sorry, I don’t have a picture to share with you guys, so I’m “borrowing” one from Google.

Dankook University was located on top of a hill surrounded by lush, rolling mountains, and bright green grass and trees. There was a fountain out front surrounded by panoramic steps leading up to the dorms, where I will be staying. Chugging up those steps after a night of drinking and dancing the night away was a serious workout.Trust me, this is coming from a guy who used to run 60-70 miles a week. The steps, stretched nearly a quarter of a mile with hundred foot flats stretched in between.

Once you make it to the top, each dorm room had keypad access.. Each room had two standard single beds with linens, two work desks, and a private bathroom.

My first culture shock in Korea was the showers. There are no shower stalls in Korea. This means the whole bathroom is essentially the shower stall, with a drain in the middle of the floor. The showerhead is usually located on the wall between the toilet and the sink. When one is to shower using said showerhead, the entire bathroom gets wet. This wasn’t so bad in the sense that it acted as a daily bathroom cleaner. However, the bathroom remained wet for hours. Another inconvenience was my height. I wasn’t able to stand directly under the showerhead, luckily it was removable so with one hand, I lathered, and with the other, I held the spout and pointed it on my skin. This took twice as long as a traditional shower, especially due to the fact that the water pressure was pretty weak.

Two weeks went by and even though I’d never really considered myself an academia type, I I think I was actually pretty good at it. I taught a beginner, intermediate and an advanced conversational English course. The advanced class offered little to no guidance, so I structured the lessons less by the books and more towards experience. We acted out many common scenarios such as going on a date, or going out dancing. The improvisation was something they could do everyday and was a great exercise. My intermediate class was slightly different. Since all of my students had their own unique strengths and weaknesses, I went around the room and allowed all the students to tell me something fun about themselves. I wanted to see how well each student spoke, as well as read their body language to see who was more social and who was more introverted. After everyone shared a tidbit about him or herself I opened the floor to discuss whatever they wanted. I wanted to see how they spoke when sharing something passionate, exciting or close to their hearts. Next I would have them read a couple of funny stories online to assess their reading skills.

At the end of the class I reviewed my notes and created three groups. Each group had three members, each with a different skill set. These included strongest vocabulary, strongest reading skills, and those with true passion. I structured it this way so that they could learn from each other. I wanted the passionate member to be the group speaker and to learn how to engage an audience. I wanted the reader to navigate the group project and pull out the internal dialogue from the team. Lastly, I wanted the member with the strongest vocabulary to be the writer, and to use his or her skills to get information out of the other two members to put down on paper.

My beginner class was a true challenge. The students understood English and the rules; however, when they spoke it was fragmented and cryptic. During the first ten minutes of class I would have the students journal about whatever they wanted. I would read their entries and write back to them the following day. Following journal time I would assign three vocabulary words to be used throughout the day. During the last hour we would watch an anime film for ten minutes, and then talk about what was going on in the story. Although my methods were unorthodox, my students were excited to come to class and everyone was participating. That was my goal, if I could emotionally influence them, I’d be leaving a lasting impression and hopefully help them learn the language through the use of intuition.

One weekend, my friend, Rodrigo, and I hiked the Bukhashsan Mountain, which was 830 meters up to an elevation of 2,744 feet in the northern periphery of Seoul.  Going up was a piece of cake, but going down was scary as hell!!! I highly recommend hiking with legit hiking shoes, rather than worn out running shoes, haha.

The next morning the international students and I headed to the annual mud festival on Daecheon Beach. The Boryeong Mud Festival is one of Korea’s most popular summer festivals and had some truly awesome events. Basins of mud were placed around the beach. The idea was to put mud all over your body and wait about ten minutes before washing it off. The mud was said to be very good for your skin. Then there was a mud pool slide where you slide down into a huge mud bath—which was a blast, but messy. There were stages placed sporadically about the beach with different bands and types of music playing. People ran around squirting each other with mud guns, and throwing beach balls and balloons through the crowds. The festival even had a five-mile obstacle run, which I was particularly excited about and completely dominated!!

As my final lesson as an instructor, a group of teachers and I created a promotional video to build awareness of Dankook’s International English Village program and to end the semester in a bang.. As a director I was challenged with making sure we were running on schedule, project managed multiple departments, and that we were fully exposing the beauty of Dankook’s Jukegon campus. The finishing product is mad dope! We generated over 10,000 video views and has been shown at the beginning of each orientation for the international program till this day. Here’s the video if you’re interested in checking it out.

Lastly, to leave a more personal mark, Rodrigo and I organized a school-wide soccer game: Americans versus Koreans. All of the of the American students and Korean students gathered around the school stadium to watch the game. Everyone cheered for their team and had a great time. It was the perfect end to a perfect summer.

I made some amazing friends who I considered family till this day. I knew that for as long as I live, I will never forget the experience I had studying abroad in Seoul, South Korea. FYI… Just because I’m a fast runner, doesn’t mean I’ll be a good soccer player...I think I had about 5 red cards with -goals (yes, I scored in the wrong goal). Haha  Till the next adventure!

High School Musical Shot lol

High School Musical Shot lol

Carlvin out!