Jeju island. The land of wind, rocks and women.
I kid you not – this is their slogan. Every Korean city has a slogan. You know, something like “Gimhae for you” or “Dynamic Busan.” For a maybe complete list, check out this cynical foreigner hatin’ on Korea’s slogans.
Before coming to Korea, Jeju was high on my list of placement preferences. An island that’s the Korean equivalent of Hawaii? Who wouldn’t want to live there for a year? But as I learned more, I realized that being on Jeju didn’t line up with my goals. For one, the Jeju dialect is so strong that mainland Koreans often have difficulty understanding it. Some even argue it should be considered a different language – a fact that I learned from a researcher during our conference. As someone very invested in learning Korean, this was a red flag. There was also the matter of family. Although Jeju isn’t terribly far, I didn’t want to have to take a plane (or ferry) every time I wanted to see my family (or anything else) on the mainland. Those things were enough to make me give up on Jeju.
Fortunately, Jeju is the site of Fulbright Korea’s annual spring conference! If you’ll remember, Korea ETAs have two yearly conferences, a fall conference in Gyeongju and spring in Jeju. This conference consisted of ETA workshops Friday through Saturday, a tour on Sunday, and presentations from Fulbright researchers Saturday through Monday. (And for me, conducting Visibility Project interviews every night. *cries*) Now that you have the general idea, let’s get to the details.
The truth is, despite the happy pictures scattered throughout this post, this conference was absolutely EXHAUSTING. For me, the feel was markedly different from Gyeongju conference, which was around two months after we’d began teaching at our placements. Although we’re currently a month into the new semester, I still feel like we’ve just begun (perhaps because my responsibilities are still in flux). I went into fall conference very ready for a break, excited to see old friends and really seeking ways to improve my teaching. I came to Jeju still excited to see my friends, but already dreading the busy schedule in store for me and just wanting to be in the classroom, rather than being told what else I needed to change. That’s not to say I don’t need to improve – I’ve just started taking “Shaping the Way We Teach English,” a US Department of State sponsored course through Coursera – but I need time to try applying what I know. I didn’t go into the conference with a particularly open mind.
Friday morning, my host mom drove me to Gimhae International Airport, where she waited in line with me and kept her eyes peeled for any foreigners who might be fellow ETAs. Lo and behold, she was the first to spot other ETAs. (“There’s a foreigner! Is that your friend?” “Actually, yes. Hi Mimi!”)
After landing in Jeju-si (Jeju city), we ate lunch at the airport trying to kill time until our bus arrived, having mini-reunions all the way from the airport to the parking lot. Eventually, we 100+ ETAs clogged up the road until buses arrives to take us on an hour-long ride to Seogwipo, on the other side of the island, where we stayed at the KAL (or Korean Airline) hotel.
Unlike fall conference, I have no pictures of the hotel, “Welcome Fulbright ETA” signs, or our room. However here is a blurry photo of the view from our window and from a conference room. Sadly, it was overcast and rainy for most of the weekend.
Once we had all gathered and somewhat-but-not-really settled in, we were ushered into a basement conference room (as seems to be the norm) and given opening remarks and talks on the grant year, teaching and life. After travel and the initial excitement of meeting friends, things got drowsy real quick. We had a quick impromptu meeting for Support Network, and then I stumbled into dinner late.
Soon after, I scrambled to organize interviewers and interviewees participating in the Visibility Project. Friday was hands down my most exhausting day of conference, but I surprised myself, pushing through job interviews and as well as conducting/organizing interviews myself. I still got some chatting in with good friends and my lovely roommates (the same ladies I roomed with at Gyeongju conference and featured here).
We had small group workshops led by fellow ETAs on a variety of topics (somehow including one on Star Wars), more talks and logistics and the first few Fulbright researcher presentations.
These are ETAs presenting research done using FKAF (Fulbright Korea Alumni Fund) grants on Friday night. These three are Emmy on the Jeju 4/3 massacre, Claire recording Emmy, Johanna on Korean vs. US healthcare systems, and Mat on multicultural students in Korea.
Sunday was tour day! Or free time, for renewees and those who opted out. We visited five sights, and seeing as this is the day I took the majority of my 150+ photos, I’ll let those do the work here.
Octagonal pillars formed from lava eruptions. Also the only time when the weather was sunny.
2.) Seongsan Ilchulbong, or Sunrise Peak
Umm…well we weren’t there for the sunrise, or any sun at all. This was our magnificent view:
But it’s not like we hiked all the way to the top expecting a view.
Jeju’s eastern shore with a lighthouse that was featured in a drama. I don’t know which one. Although my group didn’t move fast enough to make it to the lighthouse, there was a beautiful field of rapeseed flowers.
4.) Seongeup Folk Village
What seems like a typical Korean traditional village, but built from volcanic rock.
5.) Cheonjiyeon Waterfall
It was nice. And also had treacherous rocks where I managed to drop my phone. Luckily my phone case is a bright red-orange and I found it soon enough. But we missed a photo opportunity with Ms. Lee because of it. She’s one of the primary office staff who probably does more than I’ll ever know. She went on the tour with us and was so adventurous!
Ms. Lee adventuring alone. And us not.
Filling up the place with Fulbright. I spy Kristen, Constantine, Abby, Jeffrey, Emily, Rachel, Ashley, Jessica, Rachel, Luke, Zoe, Hillary, Deborah…
Selca stick AND playing with perception. I think I’ve grown.
We finished our Sunday with more researcher presentations and once again, a slew of Visibility Project interviews.
During Gyeongju conference, Monday was listed as part of the conference, but all we really did was eat breakfast and go home. It was a pleasant surprise to have the day to travel back and rest. Not so at Jeju. We listened to the last of the researcher presentations, had a slew of announcements (including the print release of Infusion magazine!) and were shuttled back to the airport. With everyone in a rush to get back and prepare for school the next day, I’m not sure that I really said any goodbyes.
I’m sorry to report that I was also unable to get a photo with Ms. Shim this time around. I’ll do better next time.
Instead I leave you with a hareubang, or as my students translate it, stone grandfather.