Student Spotlight – Jiyoon Lee
Tell us about yourself! Where are you from? What work have you done? Any hobbies?
I was born in Cheongju, South Korea, but when it was time to go to university, I moved to Seoul, and I lived there for almost ten years. I majored in Korean language and literature and journalism, and in my last year of university, I got the Korean language teaching version of a TEFL certificate at another university. After graduation, I started working teaching both Korean and English to speakers of other languages at a community welfare center and an NGO. I also worked in program administration managing language classes and tests at a university and at a couple foreign resource centers for the city of Seoul. During that time, I met my husband Chris, and we decided to move to America and apply for graduate schools. We spent almost nine months in Denver, Colorado before coming here to Eugene.
I have quite a few hobbies. I really enjoy going to see movies in the theater. My favorite movies are horror movies and thrillers like the Korean movie The Wailing(곡성) or the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but I like romantic comedies too. I also like baking and cooking. I always find baking to be a good stress relief when school gets too stressful. Recently, I’ve also started gardening. This is the second year in a row that we planted a vegetable garden in our backyard. I’m surprised how well we can grow tomatoes and other vegetables in our garden.
What was your experience being a Graduate Employee for the Korean department at the UO like?
Being a GE at UO was a great experience. This was the first time that I was able to teach Korean outside of Korea, so working with the undergraduate students was a lot of fun. But, I have to say that being a student and a teacher at the same time is pretty challenging. I think the biggest challenge was adapting to a new student culture. To be honest, it was a bit intimidating at first. However, if I look back at my experience, I can see how the LTS program helped me improve my teaching ability and build my confidence over the two terms I was a GE. I learned a lot about second language teaching in my LTS courses, and I was able to use that information to help improve my teaching. Also, the cohort and the faculty from both the LTS, and East Asian Languages and Literatures departments were really supportive and they gave me some good advice for some of the challenges I had while teaching. I still see my former students around campus or in Eugene, and they always politely say “hi (안녕하세요)” to me by bowing and speaking in Korean. I’m always impressed by their correct honorific usage and culturally appropriate behavior, so I can tell that they had a good GE teacher. 😉 I’m looking forward to teaching them in second year Korean this fall.
Could you tell us a little bit about what you are focusing on for your Master’s project?
Actually, I’m pretty busy right now because I’m working on both my MA project and a publication with Dr. Brown in the EALL department about Korean speech-style use in the marketplace. Luckily, I’ve been able to focus a lot of my LTS coursework on my MA project.
For my MA project, I’m designing a Korean as a second language course for English-speaking husbands of Koreans living in Korea. When I got married to Chris, I saw that the language that he was learning in the textbook and in his Korean academy wasn’t really helping him communicate with my family or to perform daily tasks in Korean society. I belong to a forum of Korean women who are married to foreign spouses, and they often say similar things about their husbands. So, I found a need, and I’m designing my project to fulfill the need of teaching functional survival language skills and sociocultural competence for English-speaking husbands of Koreans. It’s a lot of fun to think about new ways to help the husbands learn about Korean family communication using problem-based learning.
What is the most valuable thing you have learned since joining the LTS program?
I can’t really say that something is the most valuable because I’ve learned a lot of valuable things in this program. Of course I’ve learned a lot of practical aspects about teaching language and about developing assessments and language courses, but I’ve also learned a lot about the purpose of a cohort. I wasn’t familiar with the cohort system until I came to UO, but I think the cohort is a really amazing thing because everyone is very supportive of each other. I’m pretty shy and introverted in general, but I’m amazed at how many people help me by giving me feedback on projects or assignments, or when I give presentations. Their support has helped me to build confidence in myself as a non-native English-speaking graduate student. Graduate school is hard, and I think it’s even harder as an international student because of the linguistic and cultural differences, especially for someone who hasn’t had experience studying in an English-speaking university like me. However, just by being in classes with the cohort makes me feel like we are all in it together, and it helps to motivate me to continue to work hard in my studies. Also, the faculty has all been really kind and helpful, and I value how much they have supported my development as a Korean teacher, and in helping me find opportunities.