Japanese, Koreans, and Russians, Oh My!

From the get-go, I realized that teaching at English Village would be very different from just about any other teaching gig in Korea, or anywhere else for that matter. One of the more unique aspects is the ability to teach an extraordinarily wide range of students. Since the day of my arrival, we have taught students from all age ranges in Korea–elementary to university. We have had Korean professionals, including military. And we have even had students from other countries, including Russia and Japan.

A couple of weeks back, I had the privilege of teaching a mixture of Japanese, Korean, and Russian students. Ordinarily, we would have taught these students separately, but they chose to combine classes for the week. We wound up with an interesting amalgamation of competitive behavior between nationalities, and unlikely friendships forming.

To add even more excitement to the first day of class, we were being followed around by a Korean film crew for a segment in a news program. Now, seeing film crews around EV is not unusual; it seems as if some company is filming some scene (usually for advertisements) about 2-3 times a month. However, it was unusual to have them take an interest in the students. Here is the news segment, with a particularly familiar face around the 40-second mark:

I guess that’s my 15 milliseconds of fame.

Celebrity aside, it was fun to teach this diverse group of students and watch them interact. During group activities, the most students would gravitate toward their own nationality when choosing teams. The Russians kept to themselves, as did the boys from both Korea and Japan. However, the girls from Korea and Japan seemed to get on quite well, and would often team up for activities.

Each group had their own strengths and weaknesses. The Japanese were particularly energetic. The Koreans were particularly knowledgeable in English. And the Russians were particularly humorous (or rather, humorous in a dour, sarcastic way). On the flip side, some Japanese students were far too shy to participate, the Koreans were not as excited to be here, and the Russians liked to complain about most everything. On the last note, they would often complain that the air conditioner was “too cold,” two words, which, when used together, should not be part of a Russian’s vocabulary.

Our Korean and Japanese students left after a week, leaving us with the Russians. As the second week progressed, any energy and excitement they had had waned and eventually disappeared all together. By the last few evenings, we didn’t even attempt to play games with them, instead opting to pop in a movie for them to enjoy and/or talk through.

On the other hand, I felt that I could relate much more to the Russians students. I could better understand their humor, and their need to create teenage shenanigans such as making out during movies. I get that. Also, they were quite gracious when they left, giving us Russian chocolates and buttons and magnets from Vladivostok.

Since their departure, I have been back with Korean students, but the change of pace was nice. Other than that, we have loads of new teachers, making me a bit of an “old hat” after just a month and a half. The weird part is that I feel like I’ve been here for a long time, as the memories from my last job fade like the images from a bad dream. This is  a great sign. I’ve moved on, and I’m no longer concerned with how I got here, only where I’m going.

2 comments for “Japanese, Koreans, and Russians, Oh My!

  1. jen wong
    August 23, 2011 at 02:30

    zach attack! finally got to read one of your blog postings!

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