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This past week was filled with goodbyes and hellos.

Goodbye Jiguchon

Our time at Jiguchon had come to an end.

We spent our last week teaching the new arrivals to Korea, at least one of which had been in Korea for a shorter period of time than us DESKers. As a result, we said goodbye to Korean as our language of choice and welcomed our Chinese speakers into the spotlight. I couldn’t help but be amazed by the students’ ability to pick up on English vocabulary so quickly, especially since they are simultaneously learning Korean. Their little sponge-like brains absorbed everything we threw at them, and considering we only spent 3.5 days with them, they grew attached to us very quickly. Some expressed disappointment that we only had such a short time with them.

On our last day, the school hosted an assembly to commemorate our time spent with them. We sat among the kids as we listened to our wonderful MCs, Angel and Peter from 6th grade, and watched a video made by Mark from 6th grade. Three of us DESKers (Valentina, Melody, and I) even danced to “TT” by TWICE alongside girls from 3rd and 4th grade (I’m sorry you had to witness that, Director Mlyn). A video of the performance will not be posted. At the end of the assembly, each of us gave a short speech which brought tears to the eyes of some students and Valentina. I was especially touched by the gifts and notes the students gave us, and I also felt a tinge of sadness. These students gave us their trust, love, time, and golf balls, and I can only wonder if we gave enough to them.

Love from all of us at Jiguchon School <3

Hello and Goodbye Goseong

The Friday after our last day at Jiguchon, we embarked on a trip to Goseong (고성), the northernmost county in South Korea that borders North Korea. When we arrived, we met with students and professors from Kyungdong University (경동대학교), who served as our cooking mentors and travel companions.

Duke Engagers at Kyungdong University
We made the best tteokbokki.

While in Goseong, we visited the DMZ museum and the beautiful Seonang (서낭) rocks, we hiked up Sorak Mountain (설악산) and saw the Biseondae (비선대) rocks, and we looked around a market that specialized in stuffed squid (오징어 순대). During our short two day journey, we befriended the students from Kyungdong University, and were a little sad to say goodbye. The trip was a refreshing way to mark the end of our time at Jiguchon, and herald in new challenges that will come with our new school.

I love the mountains in Korea.

Hello Woorideul

For the remainder of our program, we will be teaching students aged 13 to 33 at Woorideul School (우리들 학교). This school specializes in teaching people of North Korean background who either came as a refugee from North Korea, or is a child of a North Korea parent. Seeing as the students will be older than the kids at Jiguchon, I’m relieved to be done with telling kids to sit down and stop hitting each other. However, I expect a different set of challenges that come with developing lessons for older students and figuring out what kind of role I will end up playing in their lives. This is an experience only a handful of people in the world will get to encounter, so I hope to make the very best impact I can with the time I have left.