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[Slice of Life] Cohort 3: The Chatty Catties

May 1, 2012

This is a big slice of my life, but I wanted to write it all out:

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It all started in June of 2009 when I first met my new roommate in order to get a our apartment key. That night I met her and one of her friends. They were returning from grad school and were telling me all about it. They were in a cohort and were all taking the same classes together throughout the program. I’m going to be honest, I had never heard of a cohort before, but it was intriguing!

1st Korea Cohort (with my roommate)

I thought of attending grad school but quickly decided that I wasn’t ready for it, especially since I was staring my first year at an International school in Seoul. (I had just finished one year of teaching English at a Hogwan in Seoul, but it was nothing like teaching in a Western style classroom~ I knew that this would be like my first year of teaching all over again.)

my kinder class at LCI

my kindies graduating

A year went by and I was back home in Texas for the summer. I knew that I’d have to make a decision by November about staying in Korea or leaving. (With International schools you have to tell your school in late Fall whether you’ll be resigning– assuming you get another offer to stay– or if you are leaving.)

At this point, I was so done with Korea. I couldn’t handle the culture, I had not made any close friends, I felt rejected by the culture most of the time, and I was burned out from always working and doing ministry. To top it off… my first year at the International school I had no idea that there was absolutely NO early childhood program…no curriculum…nothing. So my first year of teaching, with practically no experience, I had to set up an entire EC program. Basically, I was at work most nights until about 11pm– no joke, just ask my roommate. It was miserable. I guess you can say that I at least had a taste of what most Koreans experience their entire lives, sadly. But, this is when I’ll pull my foreigner card and just say, that is ridiculous. I had no life, except work and ministry, and that was not okay. (and on a good note, I gained incredible experience in setting up a program!)

first day of school... all we had was furniture. very little age appropriate class materials... no curriculum.... it was a long year! but we all survived! and learned so much! especially me!

So, I know I’m giving a lot of background information, but it’s important to know this because then it makes the next part even more amazing.

I was on a cruise the summer of 2010 with my Grandma in Alaska. The summer I was ready to call it quits with Korea. Well, low and behold, of all people that I would randomly meet on the cruise ship in the middle of frigid sea water with glaciers passing by, I met Horace Underwood’s great (great?) granddaughter, Laurel Underwood Brundage. Who is this you might ask? Well, just ask almost any Korean who Underwood is and they’ll probably be able to tell you that he was one of the very first missionaries to Korea. That’s right. And I met someone in his lineage! What are the chances that she, of all people, would one, be on the same cruise ship as me, and two, that of all the people I actually talked to on my vacation, it would be her??!! Um, coincidence? I think not.

I visited the area where missionaries to Korea were buried... there are a ton of Underwood gravestones.

We sipped our coffee and talked of Korea while we cruised past the snow capped mountains and fog that seemed to settle so peacefully over the water and around the mountains. Glaciers floated by as we conversed. She spoke fondly of Korea and my heart sank. Deep down, I knew the Lord didn’t want me to go just yet. But why?? I felt so miserable (despite all the wonderful things going on~ it was lonely and strange and difficult and I missed being relational and having close friends!) It was very clear to me though, I was to go back and not just for one more year.

All throughout the Fall I continued to struggle with this internal battle of whether to stay or go. In October, we had some professors from Simpson University come to promote their program that actually takes place in Korea (the same one my roommate did!). I gave it some thought. Even emailed the professor and scheduled to meet in the Hyatt hotel to discuss the program.

SU Campus

Well, the day came when I was supposed to meet up with Dr. Harris. I woke early and started an email: “Dear Dr. Harris, I regret to inform you that I have actually decided not to do the program and will not be able to meet today….” Just as I was typing the email I noticed I recieved an email in my inbox. Normally I don’t do this, but I saved my draft and checked my email.

Dear Dyanne:

This to confirm your meeting with us (Dr. McGraw – one of the program professors) and myself) at 6:30 p.m. today in the lobby of the Grand Hyatt Hotel.  We will look forward to seeing you.

My cell # is xxxxx.  I don’t seem to have your cell # handy.

See you this evening.

Richard K. Harris, Ed.D
                Seriously? I couldn’t send my email now! So, I replied, saying that I would be there.
                 Dr. Harris and Dr. McGraw were two of the kindest and most sincere men I have ever met. They felt like family from the beginning. I had tons of questions and they patiently answered them all. It wasn’t long into the meeting before I knew that God had set this up. I was applying to grad school.
              I could not believe how quickly my heart changed and how certain I felt about it~ I suppose it is because I had dwelled on it since the very first time I heard about it in 2009 (now 2010).
              The next day I was talking to my coworker, Melody, at our lunch duty and I was telling her how amazing this program was going to be:  There’s no GMAT or big test to get in to the school (that was so clutch for me– I HATE tests!), the program was research based and discussion based (not test based), the professors fly to Korea to have class with you (What?!), it is a Christian school and the professors are sincere believers who love the Lord, class is on the weekend so you can still work, your research and class assignments are developed in such a way that you can cater them to your personal interests and what grade level you teach, and there was no thesis…okay so I got tricked…there was Action Research.
            Within a few days, Melody met with the professors as well and decided to jump on board with the program!
              Then, I was talking to my travel buddy and friend, Semy. She was planning to go back to the USA to get a masters. Something just didn’t seem right. Korea without Semy — no, it just doesn’t work. So, I talked to her about it and within a few days she, too, met with the professors and decided to do the program as well! What?! God you are amazing!
             That Fall, not only did I sign up for grad school, two of my friends did as well… and I resigned with my school for two more years! It was a huge step of faith!

a photo we took around the time we all first started attending class... our first "grad girls" shot

Grad school has been quite a journey, but I can honestly say, it has been well worth every late night assignment, every trip down to Suwon (our classes were two hours away!), every paper I had to write, every night we had to pay for the dorms– and had to hide our pillows (the school didn’t offer blankets or pillows but we found some pillows so we always hid them in the drawers for our next stay!), all the research I had to do… it was one of those decisions that if I was given the opportunity to change my past, I wouldn’t change a thing (okay, maybe class could have been closer^^).
                It’s been life changing.
              Between the professors, my research, my cohort members, and the class material, I have gained so much from this program. In many ways, it has helped to deepen my appreciation for education and especially higher education; it has provided me with a platform for my dreams of opening schools in third world countries. It has given me the desire to be a learner for life. It has sharpened my mind and challenged my thinking. It has given me friends and professors who are like family.
               This past week, we sadly and joyfully completed our final class of the program. What’s even more sad is that we had to do it via ooVoo. The professor for this particular course cannot travel to Korea and several of our cohort members moved because of jobs, so we had class in cyberworld with locations in: Hong Kong, Seoul SK, Suwon SK, California, New York, and Virginia!
                It was bittersweet. While I’m so excited to be done and ready to graduate, I can honestly say that I have cried over the thought of not seeing these amazing people on a regular basis, including my professors.
              Our cohort loves to talk and have discussions so it made the class very enriching and helped us to look at multiple viewpoints. We loved to wander off topic. We loved to love each other. Each class the big talk was what snacks we would buy or where we would go for lunch. We had marriages, babies, new jobs, illness, heartbreaks– and through it all we were sinking our teeth in and getting our assignments and projects done. It was intense. But the people made it so much more enjoyable. It was exciting to see everyone each week!
              Dr. McGraw gave our cohot the nickname: Chatty Catties. That is one name we lived up to! All of us. I don’t think there was a single person in our cohort who didn’t like to talk or express his/her opinion.
              So, with one more assignment left and my research yet to be published, I gratefully and joyfully await our graduation on June 10th.
              I am pretty sure there has never been and never will be a Cohort as amazing as ours. This one is for you guys. I love you all.
(and, we most certainly will need to have a reunion one day! even if it is in cyberworld!^^)

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[I couldn’t get all the paragraphs to work… so a lot of them ran together… sorry~ I know that makes it harder to read.]
The slice of life challenge is hosted every Tuesday by Two Writing Teachers.
One Comment leave one →
  1. Terje permalink
    May 1, 2012 4:43 pm

    What an exciting time in your life. Little sad but full of promise. It seems that even when this journey ends the cohort members will be there for each other. June is almost here.

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