Experiencing life in a “whole new world”

Farrin Foss wears a plastic bag on her head at a Lotte Giants baseball game in Busan. Called a “rally bag” it is a tradition at most Lotte Giant games to tie a plastic bag around one’s head the last one or two innings of the game. Most fans use the bag to take out their own trash after the game.

Farrin Foss and her student are shown with a Korean rice cake dessert called “songpyeon”. (submitted photo)

Shown on the left is Farrin Foss along with three of her friends who are also teachers at the same school as Farrin. (submitted photo)

“I have spent the past 10 months navigating in a whole new world and I have absolutely loved living in Busan!” she remarked.
Approximately six thousand miles from home, Farrin Foss works at a for-private school called a “Hagwon”. Located on the southeastern coast of South Korea, the city’s population numbers over three million people.
Hagwons are for-private institutes, academies or “cram schools”.  Here students are trained to meet particular goals, most commonly to pass the entrance examinations of high schools or universities.
Foss explained that both Korean and foreign teachers are at the school where she works.
“Most of the foreign teachers, including myself, are from the U.S.A., but there are many teachers here from Canada, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Ireland, and Australia.
“I teach students as young as four and generally as old as 14 years.  Most class sizes are between six and ten students.”
Farrin said she is teaching English as a second language, teaching phonics, grammar, and writing. Usually she works nine to ten hour days or more depending on how much grading she has to do that week and what activities she needs to prepare for kindergarten students. She teaches kindergarten for about two to three hours in the morning, then serves lunch and eats with her kindergarten students. She begins teaching elementary-age students in the afternoon, usually until about six or seven o’clock.
She told about a couple of cherished memories that will always remain very special…
“One of my favorite memories was when we made a Korean rice cake dessert called ‘songpyeon’ with our students as a way to celebrate a Korean holiday called ‘Chuseok.’ Chuseok is usually celebrated in September or October. It is a three-day harvest festival very similar to our Thanksgiving holiday. Many Koreans gather with their families to not only celebrate the harvest, but also to recognize and give thanks to their ancestors. The students and I were given rice cake dough which we flattened and then spread sweet red bean on the dough like peanut butter. Finally, we rolled the rice cake into a half-moon shape and and it was prepared so we could enjoy it immediately.”
To see the full story, read the February 14 issue of The Tribune in print or online.

Leave a Comment