An American Girl in Korea

Allison Lowe, an Austin College Class of 2012 magna cum laude graduate, was awarded a Fulbright grant to spend the 2012-2013 academic year in South Korea, participating in the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) Program, which places new college graduates as English teaching assistants in schools or universities. The ETAs are integrated into the host community, improving their own foreign language skills and knowledge of the host country as they increase foreign students’ English language abilities and knowledge of the United States.

Allison writes about her experiences in the blog An American Girl in Korea. She has more than the usual language and cultural barriers to overcome; she is legally blind. Her blog details highs and lows in and out of the classroom as well as her own growth and “stretching” in a moving account of her days abroad.

The following paragraphs are excerpts of a story published in the Summer 2012 Austin College Magazine about Allison’s Fulbright award in advance of her departure.

In her Fulbright application, Allison wrote, “Teaching in Korea would be an incomparable opportunity for me as a teacher, as a student of the English language, as a learner, and as a person who wants to experience more than she ever has.”

She chose to apply for the program because “teaching is what I do,” she said. In fact, when she returns from South Korea, she will begin a Ph.D. program in English literature at University of North Texas, preparing for her goal of becoming a professor of English.

Some of her inspiration and preparation for her future career came through an Austin College Lilly internship at a Montessori school in Sherman and observation in public schools through a course of the Austin Teacher Program.

And, as a teacher, she understands that continued learning is critical. “I also want to go to Korea not just to teach but to learn,” she said. “Just as I learned so much from my students in my previous teaching experiences, I’m sure my students in Korea will teach me an incredible amount about a place I have never been. I believe my contact with them will help me integrate more successfully, as they provide me insight to Korean cultures. As a history major as well as an English major, I know what things can happen when two cultures are brought together in peace. Usually both parties gain knowledge and understanding. When so many people came together on the Silk Road, an exchange of ideas flourished.”

Allison knows, too, that the experience will enhance her teaching skills. “Teaching English in Korea will help me become a better teacher in so many ways,” she said. “Teaching abroad will help me teach in American classrooms that are becoming more and more diversified. I am sure being put into a foreign country for a year will help me relate to my future students who may be trying to integrate within the United States.”

While teaching English, Allison hopes to learn to speak Korean as well, having started learning on her own. She also hopes to explore Korean Buddhism as well as the general culture and history of the Korean people. “I don’t want to be a tourist in Korea,” she said.” I want to experience it as Koreans do.”

Allison completed her Austin College degree with majors in English and history, earning Honors in English.