Applied Anthropology Grad Program

It’s been a long time since I’ve updated my blog, so I just wanted to talk about how my graduate program is going now. So far, it’s going really well! I’m in my second semester of my Master’s program. I’ve chosen my applied thesis advisor and I think I have another committee chair picked out. Right now I am taking Anthropological Theory and Praxis II and Quantitative Methods in Anthropology. Our main focus at the moment is learning some stats and how to use SPSS. We’re also still learning theory in Praxis. It’s interesting, but thankfully this is the last semester of intro-level core courses! I’ll finally get to dive into my main research topics next semester.

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I’ve also enrolled in a graduate academic certificate in Archival Management. It’s adding 5 courses to my degree and I’ll be taking classes in web development, digital curation, creating digital libraries, building online archives, etc. It’s perfect because it goes along well with my applied thesis topic (working with linguists that build online endangered language archives and endangered language revitalization) and it’ll give me the skills I need to pursue jobs as an archivist.

Still undecided on whether or not I will apply for doctoral programs afterwards, but I am leaning more and more towards it. Either that or getting a second Master’s in library science to pursue a career in academic librarianship and special collections work.

On an unrelated note, I finally went to Jeju a few weeks ago! It was beautiful. I’ll upload pictures in another blog post later.

Vietnam

It’s been a few days since we’ve been back in Korea, but I’m still reeling from how great my vacation in Vietnam was. We flew into Hanoi, stayed the night, and then took a bus and a ferry to Cat Ba Island for the remainder of our stay. The people seemed really friendly and the food was wonderful (so much yummy tofu!).

We had a guide that we found under Airbnb experiences give us a kayak tour of the maze of mini islands surrounding Cat Ba Island in the Ha Long Bay area. It was so beautiful! The water was bright green and very clear in a lot of places. The islands were all topped with limestone mountains and rain forests filled with all kinds of wild life (including monkeys!). We did the kayak tour for about an hour or so, and then we rode bikes through a village on one of the islands. We also ate a traditional Vietnamese meal at our guide’s uncle’s house. Afterwards, we climbed a mountain and it was quite literally the most different hike of my life! The view was so worth it though! We could see almost all of the islands in Ha Long Bay from the top. When we got back down from the mountain, our guide even extended our tour for a few more hours and showed us a nearby cave. We probably explored every nook and granny of it. It was amazing! Here are some pictures of our stay.

 

 

 

 

 

All in all, it was a really amazing trip. I was exhausted by the end, especially after our day-long hiking and kayaking trip, but it was refreshing and really healing for my mental health. Being out in nature, hiking and exploring, has always been rejuvenating for me. It feels like a reset. I was starting to get kind of burnt out, but I feel like I am completely prepared for my next semester of graduate school to start back up. I’m actually looking forward to it. 🙂

Graduate School, the Gyeongju Science Museum, and the Folk Crafts Village

Been here for over 2 months now and it’s still awesome. This city is crazy beautiful. Moving here was by far the best choice we could have made, considering what a nightmare the Ulsan job was. Gyeongju is by far my favorite city in Korea and has been the most enjoyable one to live in thus far. We live downtown, a short walk from everything, and there’s a big park about 5 minutes away. There are also several really beautiful Buddhist temples and 4 mountains to hike a short walk from our apartment. It’s amazing that a city of 300,000+ people has such an impressive amount of green space. All of this is about a 5-10 minute walk from my apartment, even though I live downtown.

Last weekend, we went to the Folk Crafts Village, a little “village” of traditional Korean houses and local artists’ studios that sell Korean pottery, jewelry, etc. It was pretty awesome. It’s also where Gyeongju’s Science Museum is. We didn’t stay very long because it was really small and there was a big tour happening, but what I did see was very cool. The museum mostly focused on Gyeongju’s several hundred year history as a center for astronomical research during the Silla period, which was awesome for me because I’ve been obsessing over Korean astronomical history lately. I’ve been learning Korean words for astronomical terms and reading up on Gyeongju’s history with Cheomseongdae (the oldest, surviving astronomical observatory in Asia— 1,300 years old!). This city has some really cool historical sites if you’re a nerd for history and archaeology like I am.

My graduate education is going well too. We only have about 4 weeks left of our first semester. Anthropology is awesome and UNT’s program is a really great mix of so many different sub-disciplines of anthropology. I’m glad it’s worked out so well. I was really unsure about this program, but it has turned out to be a perfect fit! It’s been fascinating learning about anthropology’s history (both good and bad) and how it has developed as an academic discipline over the last 150 years. I’ve also chosen my academic advisor and chair of my thesis committee (I picked the professor that specializes in linguistic anthropology and endangered language documentation, of course). Next semester I will be taking Anthropological Thought and Praxis II, along with Ethnographic and Quantitative Methods in Anthropology. I’m also considering taking the introduction to linguistics class, but I’m unsure if 3 classes will be too much while also working full time. We’ll see, I guess. I feel like this program is going to fly by really quickly. A PhD is probably happening next.

Living in Gyeongju

Wow, so huge life update. I haven’t updated in awhile because life has been kind of stressful over the last few months. After we left Geoje in early June and moved to Ulsan, things took a turn. Our new school was disorganized, our director was rude, and there was barely any communication on how to run the classes based on their curriculum (yet there were plenty of criticisms about Molly and I as teachers without telling us anything constructive! >.>). Our director was pretty much an egotistical maniac on a power trip who could do no wrong and often blamed us for problems she caused. Within two weeks of being there, we handed her our letters of resignation, gave her 45 days notice, and then we moved to Gyeongju about 30 minutes north of where we were living.

We’ve only been here for two weeks and it’s like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. My new director is kind, encouraging, and has a really positive view on education that fits very well with my teaching style. The kids are amazing! I’m feeling creative with my teaching again. I enjoy all of my classes. I’m finally feeling like my goofy, positive, encouraging teacher self again! It’s been so easy (and fun!) getting the kids to talk in English and working to create a positive, immersive language experience for them.

As for Gyeongju, I think it’s my favorite city in Korea so far! It’s a medium sized city about 30 minutes north of Ulsan and 30 minutes south of Pohang. The population is about 300,000 so it’s not too big and not too small. It’s a historical city with dozens and dozens of archaeological and historical sites spread out across the city. There are tons of museums, beautiful parks, and lots of really good restaurants. It’s also very dense and pedestrian friendly. We’ve been walking everywhere. It’s so easy to get around.

My history major and archaeology obsessed self is really digging this place. The city was the capital of the Silla Kingdom for nearly 1,000 years, so the place is absolutely booming with historical sites and there are archaeological excavations happening almost constantly. I’m very excited to see more (and possibly volunteer on some digs!).

I’ve also started grad school! I’m on the fourth week of my first semester. I’m studying Applied Anthropology at the University of North Texas. It’s an online program so we can continue to live in Korea and it’s been really interesting so far. Molly is also in the program, so we’re able to talk a lot about our coursework together (we’re in the same classes for our first two semesters). We read a lot and write tons of papers (duh, it’s grad school!), but it’s been pretty enjoyable. We read about a book a week, then have about 5 days worth of discussions in an old school internet forum type format, and then we have a weekly videoconference seminar on the weekends. We have to write a paper once a week. Right now we’re taking an “anthropological thought and praxis” class and an “ethnographic and qualitative methods in anthropology” class. Next semester will be the second “anthropological thought and praxis class” and then “ethnography and quantitative methods in anthropology.” It’s great! I have a lot of downtime at my school, so I just work on my coursework during my breaks. I’m focusing my studies on linguistic anthropology and digital storytelling, and Molly is doing environmental anthropology.

Anyway, today we decided to explore more of the city. We went downtown, which is an easy walk from our apartment, and found a strip of Vietnamese businesses. We ate some good food and got coffee, then we walked to the folk village in the middle of this really nice park close to downtown. I’ve only been here a short time, but I’m very pleased with where we live so far! Here are some pictures of our explorations.

 

 

Last month in Geoje…

I’ve been super busy and kind of forgot about this blog for the last two months. :O Some big changes have occurred! We’re not moving to Busan. Our current employers decided that it would be too complicated to extend our work visa for another two months, so we had to rush to find a job for June (this means I won’t be visiting Texas in August =/ ). We’re moving to Buk-gu in Ulsan this time around (a nice coastal Korean city of about 1.3 million people). We got a really nice vibe from the school and the job comes with a rent-free 3 bedroom apartment, along with a nice pay increase (2.4 million won per month!). Including severance and pension, we’re now at about $32k a year. The salary increase alone pays for my grad program entirely, which means we’ll be able to pay for grad school AND save just as much money as we were before.

We’re both excited about Ulsan. We visited the city a few weeks ago and, while our specific neighbourhood doesn’t look like the most exciting place, we’re only a 20 minute cab ride from downtown. We’re also a short walk from mountain hiking and about 20 minutes from the beach. Jung-gu looks very nice and we’re excited to be so close to the city center. I’m also happy about being able to take Korean language classes at the University of Ulsan.

All in all, it seems like it will be a nice place to live and work while working on my Master’s degree (work hours are only 30 per week so it shouldn’t be too difficult balancing work and school). We’re also turning the 3rd bedroom into a guest room/art too, so feel free to visit, friends! ;P

We’re moving in 3 weeks so I’ll be taking a lot of last minute pictures of our backyard in Geoje. Here’s 2.

 

A very late update :O

It’s been a very long time since I last updated this blog (almost two months!). I have a few big things to mention. I’m officially going to graduate school! I got accepted to University of North Texas’s Applied Anthropology program! I’m doing the Master of Science option with a skill concentration in web development. I’ve tentatively declared the anthropology of education option and hope to do research on educational theory and how to design curriculum for underserved and potentially non-English speaking communities in a non-profit setting (particularly for refugees and migrants from Mexico and Latin America). I also want to explore educational technology in my coursework (hence the web development skill option). My work will be centered around creating multicultural curriculum and other educational opportunities in museums, historic preservation organizations, historic sites, folklore societies, historical societies, and other non-traditional, education oriented non-profit settings. If you can’t tell, I’m very excited. 🙂

I’m planning on staying in Korea for at least the first year of the program (I chose the online method of delivery for the degree) and potentially the second year. I generally only work about 24 or 25 hours a week here in Korea, so doing a Master’s degree while here seems really manageable.

Additionally, we’re almost two months out from our contract being completed! We’re probably moving to Busan, but Seoul is potentially on the table as well. I’m starting the process of contacting recruiters and finding open positions today. We’re both excited to live in a better location and, because of our recently obtained TEFL certification and year of experience, get a slightly higher salary. >:)

Contract is coming to a close…

I haven’t been posting as much lately (not much has been going on, especially with the cold weather and having a dog to take care of at home), but I’ve been in Korea for almost 9 months at this point and I’ve only got a few more months left of my contract. We’re definitely staying in Korea. Korea has been so, so good to us (pay, quality of life, food, adventure, the people, etc.), but we’re probably not going to renew our current contract. Geoje is a beautiful island and we love it, but we’ve decided that we’d be much happier in a bigger city. We’re thinking of moving to Busan (Korea’s 2nd largest city) and hopefully living in the Haeundae district so we can be walking distance from the beach and a national park. We’re exploring other options too though. We haven’t been to Jeju Island yet and want to visit Jeju City before we make our decision. Yeosu and Pohang also look like pretty nice cities. We want a big city that has decent hiking and parks. We also want to stay along the southern coast or on an island because it’s warmer (Seoul is out of the question because of the winters).

I’m about 60% finished with my TEFL course and plan on finishing it up within the next month so I can get my certification and use it to negotiate for higher pay on my next contract (we’re thinking we can get a $300 or $400 a month salary increase– crossing my fingers).

Thus far, these are our next possible destinations:

Busan, Jeju City, Yeosu, Pohang, Daegu, Ulsan.

Not sure where we’ll end up, but hopefully it’s someplace relatively warm with a nice beach. Heh.

On a side note, I’ve just completed the Talk to Me in Korean Level 1 book and just started the Talk to Me in Korean Level 2 grammar and workbook. My Korean ability has shot up because of these books. I can’t recommend them enough. I’m also using their My Weekly Vocabulary books. Their books have actually inspired me to get up to Level 10 in their curriculum and get to an advanced level in Korean. Before I just wanted to get to a basic conversational level, but now I want to be able to read Korean literature in Korean. Over the past year, I’ve discovered that I really love learning new languages. I study an hour or two a day and I’m actually quadrilingual at this point. Weird. Anyway, these books are great, especially if you’re wanting to live or travel in Korea and want to be less of a tourist.

We’ve also completed our applications for the Master’s program Molly and I are applying for. We sent them off a week ago. Now we just have to wait a month or two to see if we get accepted and/or get any scholarships to attend. I’m really hoping we get in. My ideal situation is using the low work hours that I have in Korea to finish up my Master’s degree within the next two years, pay off all my student debt, and be able to come back to the states in about 2 years debt-free with a Master’s degree and about $40,000 invested in an S&P 500 mutual fund with Vanguard (see how good Korea is being to us?!).

Anyway, if you have any questions about Korea, how I’m managing my debt, how to get into ESL, feel free to comment.

Mountain hiking and Korean

A new hiking  and biking trail was built near our apartment, so we decided to go check it out. The  trail goes really far up into the mountain and I got some nice pictures with my phone. This is one of the best parts about Geoje (besides, of course, the beaches :P). I love all the mountains and numerous opportunities for hiking. It’s definitely a hiking and biking culture. Everyone does it and the local government builds hiking/biking trails all over the place.

On an unrelated note, I think we’re leaving Geoje for our next contract. We haven’t decided on another place 100% yet, but we’re thinking of moving to Busan or Jeju City. We want to be in a bigger city, while also still being close to beaches. We love Geoje, but we want to go somewhere more exciting.

As for my Korean learning, I’ve almost finished the Talk to Me in Korean Level 1 grammar book and the workbook. I’m finally about to start the level 2 grammar book and work book that has been sitting on my shelf for months. My Korean is getting so good. I’m really proud of how much I’ve picked up in the 8 months I’ve been here.

I’ve been working on creating sentences with 누구 (nu-gu, “who”) a little bit. Here are some examples:

누구예요? (nu-gu-ye-yo) – Who is it?

누가했어요? (no-ga-hae-sseo-yo) – Who did it?

이거 누구예요? – (i-geo-nu-gu-ye-yo) – Who is this?

누가 샀어요? (nu-ga-sa-sseo-yo) – Who bought this?

I’ve also been working on memorising verbs and how to conjugate them. My white board has been extremely helpful for this. I write different conjugations of verbs every day on this thing. Like I mentioned in one of my previous posts, pick up some of the Talk to Me in Korean books if you’re interested in learning Korean. They’re amazing.

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Short Update

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted anything, so I wanted to give an update. Molly and I are both applying for a graduate program in Applied Anthropology that we can do online while we work in Korea, so we’ve been kind of busy focusing on that. We completed the GRE last Friday and got decent scores, so I think we’re both pretty competitive for the program (on top of our stellar letters of rec, writing samples, and our statements of purpose). Molly wants to focus on environmental anthropology and non-profit management, while I want to do anthropology of education, non-profit management, and design anthropology (interactive web design—ultimate goal is being able to create educational web apps and mobile apps for museums, archaeological organizations, and various other education based organizations). We’re both excited for it and hope we get in. We only work 25 hours a week at our current ESL job, so it’d be nice to have something else to focus our time on and I love taking classes, so win win. The program is also fairly cheap and offers scholarships that would cut down the price to nearly nothing.

On top of that, we’re planning for our next vacation in February. We’re thinking of either road tripping around Korea or staying in an AirBnB in Seoul and exploring the city (or going to Jeju Island, haha). I’m leaning towards Seoul. I’d like to go to Jeju when it’s warmer so I can swim and take scuba diving lessons.

I’ve also picked up a lot more Korean. The Talk to Me in Korean books are seriously amazing. I’ve almost finished the level one books and should be starting level two by next week (I’m working on past tense conjugation now). I’m also about to start the Korean Folk Tales book that Molly got me for Christmas from the same company (learn Korean while learning Korean Folklore!). I’m getting pretty decent with conjugating present tense, past tense, and “I want to ‘verb,'” so I’m also currently working on memorizing a ton of verbs. I use the Drops app for iOS and this vocabulary book (also from Talk to Me in Korean) for that.

Not sure what else to mention, so here’s a list of some of the verbs I’ve been working on:

하다 (“ha-da,” to do) becomes 해요 (“hae-yo”) for “I do,” “You do,” “She does,” etc.

보다 (“bo-da,” to see) becomes 봐요 (“bwa-yo”) for “I see,” “You see,” “She sees,” etc.

가다 (“ga-da,” to go) becomes 가요 (“ga-yo”) for “I go, “You go,” “She goes,” etc.

먹다 (“meok-da,” to eat) becomes 먹어요 (“meok-eo-yo”) for “I eat,” “You eat,” “She eats,” etc.

Not sure if you’ve noticed the pattern there, but it doesn’t change at all. Conjugating Korean verbs is super easy. It doesn’t change for I, you, we, he, she, it, or they. If the verb stem ends in ㅏ (“a”) or ㅗ (“o”), you add 아요 (“a-yo”) to the end of the stem for present tense. If it doesn’t end inㅏ (“a”) or ㅗ (“o”), you add 어요 (“eo-yo”). If the verb ends in 하 (“ha”), you add 여요 (“yeo-yo”). Note that it doesn’t become 하여요 (“ha-yeo-yo”) though. It becomes 해요 (“hae-yo”). That’s all it takes for present tense. It’s very easy (a lot less to memorize than Spanish). Just remember this, memorize a ton of verbs, and you’ve already got a huge chunk of Korean down.

Also, winter here is pretty (from the mountains near our apartment)!

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Vacation with the Bosses and Ancient Buddhist Temples

Yesterday was a really good day. Our bosses invited us along with them on their family day vacation. It was a nice gesture and we really appreciated it. We road tripped over two hours to Gyeongju (경주), what our boss called the “city of a thousand histories.” It was really amazing. The city was the capital of the kingdom of Silla (신라) over one thousand years ago and the city itself was filled with traditional Korean architecture, along with several historic sites. We visited some ancient Buddhist temples (one was a UNESCO World Heritage site) and even went biking together around a small, traditional Korean village. They also took us to a fantastic Korean restaurant and we got some traditional tea. I think my boss loves that I was a history major in college, so he keeps wanting to share everything Korean history related with me.

It’s almost hard to believe how positive our work environment is. Last week, one of our bosses invited us to a really nice, traditional Bibimbap restaurant and all he did was rave about us. He said we’re the best Americans he’s ever met and the best English teachers he’s ever hired. He said he kept his distance at first because he’s had really terrible experiences with some of the American English teachers he’s hired in the past and didn’t want to get burned again. However, he told us that’s all changed and that he can see that we’ve been nothing but amazing, kind people over the 7 months we’ve worked with him. The change in attitude is palpable. He was nice before, but that kindness has easily increased tenfold. He invites us out to lunch and dinner, he drinks with us (lol at me getting slightly drunk with my boss), invites us along with his family for vacation, and is just all around much more light hearted with us. He told us that, if we want it, we can renew our contract with them and stay another year. In response, Molly and I decided that we’re definitely staying. I’m so happy with this job that I don’t want to leave just yet.

Also, Christmas! Molly and I exchanged gifts a little early, and I’m really happy with my stash. One thing in particular was a Korean language learning book from Talk to Me in Korean on Korean Folktales. The book helps you learn Korean while you read Aesop’s Fables and some traditional Korean folklore. I actually have some of the other Talk to Me in Korean books (they’re really amazing if you’re trying to learn Korean, btw). The book is a little advanced for me (I’m only on level 2 out of 5 levels in the Talk to Me in Korean series), but I’ll definitely start using it more as I pick up more Korean and work my way through more of the series.

Anyway, about the vacation with the bosses. We went to a Buddhist temple called Bulguksa. The temple is about 1,500 years old and is the head temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. It was an impressive structure. I didn’t get any pictures of the inside because it said no pictures or videos and I didn’t want to be disrespectful, but here are some pictures of the outside.

Overall, it was a really amazing experience and I’m glad our bosses thought to invite us along.

Til next time!

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