October 16-19: Fall Conference at Gyeongju
This year Fulbright Korea’s Fall Conference was held in mid-October. Same venue, same structure. The content of various talks and workshops of course changed, and we had the pleasure of having Thomas Santos, Regional English Language Officer (RELO) and EFL teacher extraordinaire, give a talk and stick around for the majority of the conference. But the major differences for me were:
1. I took hardly any pictures. My phone battery also died very early on the day of the tour, but I also think the second time around, the events of Fall Conference just don’t seem as exciting or photo-worthy.
2. Somehow I ended up being involved in six presentations, small group talks or miscellaneous things to run. It was tiring, but not as much as Jeju Conference was.
3. I went on the Sunday tour. The previous year I opted out, since I’d just been to Gyeongju with my coteachers the week before, was really needing a free day, and wasn’t looking for an extension of orientation, where we’d been constantly bused and rushed from one place to the next. My roommates – who were also skipping the tour that day – and I ran into Ms. Shim on the elevator after breakfast. We had the obligatory awkward small talk. Upon finding out we were first years, she made a loaded remark, “Oh, you’re first years, but you’re not going on the tour?” Hahaha….we stuttered our way through excuses before arriving at our floor.
I joined the tour this year because a.) I didn’t go last year, and b.) I wanted the chance to spend time with this year’s new ETAs. Two days at the end of orientation isn’t enough to really get to know anyone, and there’s a strange feeling or displacement that comes with being a renewee for me, having moved from knowing everyone in the program to still hearing a name and thinking “there’s a [name] in the program?” or “I swear I’ve never heard of that person before.” While there really isn’t time to get to know everyone, I thought I could at least learn everyone’s names…buuut that’s still a work-in-progress too.
This year’s class has a completely different feel and personality, and of course, dozens of individual beliefs and values too. People struggled with many challenges at their placements that – from a place of having been through them before – I know will pass, but are still extremely difficult in the moment. I didn’t take in as much encouragement from this conference, but I don’t know that I really gave encouragement either. While the conference was great on the surface level, the more I reflect on it, the more it feels like I’m in a slump.
But with things picking up at work and hopefully some big changes at my placement, I’m trying to break out of my gloomy season.
From the few pictures I did take at Conference, here’s the lake view from our hotel room:
And a delicious brownie enjoyed with good company: