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Imagine Fulbright: The adventures of Paige Whitney ’17 in South Korea

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Student Fellowships

January 25, 2018

Paige in Gamcheon Cultural Village, BusanPaige in Gamcheon Cultural Village, BusanPaige Whitney ’17, who graduated with a major in English and minors in Theatre and Japanese, recently began her position as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) in Seocheon, South Korea. She teaches high school-aged students at a boarding school, fulfilling the Fulbright Fellowship mission of educational exchange and cultural ambassadorship. As a Carthage student, the Albany, Illinois native visited both Italy and China through J-Term study tours, which inspired a love of travel and learning about other cultures. She was also a service fellow for the English Department, a member of the Women’s Ensemble, and acted in two Carthage productions.

Paige enjoys time with her host family in Bonghwa villagePaige enjoys time with her host family in Bonghwa villagePaige loves her teaching position, even if it is occasionally stressful. She says, “My students and I have a good relationship, but when they are up late studying and have to get up early every day, they are bound to fall asleep easily. Teaching sleepy students can be very disheartening because you feel like they don’t care, but you just have to realize they have lots more on their plate than just your class, and not take it personally. I gently wake them up with a smile and a happy attitude.” She finds herself drawing on her experience in improvisational comedy as a member of Carthage’s Merely Players troupe. Her students are often working on improving their conversational skills, which reminds her of the versatility and acceptance inherent to improv. She says her classes are energetic and always keep her laughing. She even has inside jokes and special greetings for many of her students. Having enjoyed Korean pop music since middle school, Paige finds that she can bond with her students over a common musical taste.

As she settles into her ETA role in Korea, she has big things planned for the future, including more formal Korean language study, and several more years of teaching overseas. Eventually, she plans to attend graduate school and become a professor. Paige’s success is no surprise to her professors. “At Carthage, Paige clearly had a gift for language and a boundless curiosity that helped her win the Fulbright fellowship,” says English professor Alyson Kiesel. “Now, her Fulbright years will help her develop those existing gifts while preparing her for the teaching she will do in graduate school and beyond. These experiences will be invaluable for Paige and for her students.”Paige meditates at templePaige meditates at temple

When not teaching, Paige says she loves to explore Korea, and especially appreciates the food. She shared that “when it comes to food, I’m quite easy to please and will try anything once! Whenever a Korean person asks me if I like Korean food, my response has become, ‘번데기말고 다 좋아해요!’ (Except for silkworm larvae, I like it all!) In my defense, I tried it once, so I can say I don’t like it!” 

On her blog she describes her travels and experiences: a trip to a festival celebrating fish, trying local delicacies, as well as stories about new friends, her host family, and her many trips to noraebang (South Korea’s version of karaoke). She also shared that she joined an aerobics class with her host mother, took a couple of small trips around the region, and visited a public bathhouse.

As part of her Fulbright-organized orientation in South Korea, she visited a Buddhist temple, which she describes as a spiritually moving experience. Taking account of her time at Carthage and transition to service as a Fulbrighter, Paige traces a path of personal growth. “I traveled to China, Italy, and Japan within the span of two years and gained invaluable experiences that made me confident and sure that teaching abroad would be successful and fulfilling for me,” she wrote. “Carthage absolutely changed me for the better, or maybe I just evolved into a more mature me.” 

Follow Paige’s adventures in South Korea on her blog

Students interested in applying to the Fulbright program should contact Professor Dan Choffnes, Director of Student Fellowship.