Ji Yoon Noh, AM’15 | Social Service Administration

Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) Program Awardee

What drew you to the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) Program? What about it seemed like a good fit for you and your work at the time that you were applying?

I was first drawn to the Fulbright program for the possibility of traveling to a foreign country—especially to South Korea—full expenses paid. It was really important for me to travel to Korea where my family is originally from. The choice of country was an easy one, however I was nervous about the teaching component. While I had experience working with young people, I had never taught in the classroom. However, after learning that no teaching experience was necessary to qualify for the program, I pursued the program in hopes of going to Korea.

As the fellowship period draws to a close, is there a particular experience that has been memorable or that stands out to you (or that perhaps has even surprised you)? 

My grant year came to a close in July of 2016. However, I was lucky enough to renew with Fulbright Korea for another year (2016-2017), which is a very unique quality of the Fulbright Korea program (you can renew up to three years). From my first grant year, the most memorable experience was teaching in an all-boys middle school. I had never expected to enjoy teaching boys so much; they were so energetic, kind, and forgiving of my rookie mistakes. The best memories include playing frisbee with my students during lunch time and watching endless streams of K-pop videos in my classroom. I also led a group of 9th graders to create and present their perspectives of English Teaching Assistants at the Fulbright Korea Spring Conference. 20 students in this extracurricular group created a presentation where they made recommendations for how to improve English teaching to Fulbright ETAs. Watching students grow in their confidence in English and comfort in speaking to foreigner was incredibly rewarding.

Writing the statement of grant purpose can be challenging for the ETA since, for many graduate students, their teaching experience may not necessarily include teaching English as a second language. Is there any advice you would offer students who are thinking about applying?

I’d like to offer two pieces of advice for those interested in applying. The first is regarding the statement of purpose. The Fulbright program prides itself on its support of cultural ambassadorship or cultural exchange. Highlight past experiences of working in different cultures and show growth amidst uncomfortable situations. While teaching is an huge part of the ETA experience, teachings is often a means to provide insight into the American culture and redefine/challenge stereotypes of what “America” is like.

Second—and perhaps more importantly—when working with students, I strongly believe in the concept that we (i.e. adults) need to meet students where they are “at.” Young people are constantly inundated with expectations and pressures from their environment. And it’s not an easy place to be! Showing humility, kindness, and non-judgmental support is HUGE. Assume the best intentions with young people; they’re still trying to figure it out! And especially when working with students whose first language is not English, be gentle and patient. You are entering into THEIR world. Take caution and have the upmost respect because you are ultimately the foreigner.

More about Ji

As a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in South Korea, Ji Yoon Noh (AM’15 in Social Services Administration) is focusing on developing a curriculum that fosters socioemotional development and collaborative learning by using Responsive Classroom as well as other resources to establish a collaborative learning culture in the classroom.

More about the Fulbright ETA Program

The English Teaching Assistant (ETA) Programs place Fulbrighters in classrooms abroad to provide assistance to the local English teachers. ETA’s help teach English language while serving as cultural ambassadors for the U.S. The age and academic level of the students varies by country, ranging from kindergarten to university level.  Interested in applying for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program? Contact Kevin Doherty at kevdoh@uchicago.edu to get started on your application now.