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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Teach At A Daegu "U"

“A good command of English is vital to be successful in Korea’s job market”
Lee Byeong Wan, Ph.D., Professor, Economist, and former Director of Yeungnam University’s Foreign Language Institute

There are more than 27,000 native English speakers currently teaching in Korea, helping to fulfill a remarkable national strategy for learning English. The largest contingents are from the U.S., Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. That figure is even more impressive when you consider that as recently as 2002, there were 10,950 English speakers teaching in Korea—less than half the current number.

Video screen near Yeungnam University Maine Gate
English teachers can be found in all types of teaching venues and roles in Korea, with the single largest contingent working at private English Centers known as Hagwons. Many teach at the elementary and secondary levels. Daegu, known as an education center in Korea, has an impressive number of educational institutions. As of 2009 there were 215 elementary schools, 123 middle schools and 91 high schools. There are also more than 20 universities and colleges.  Our focus here will be on native English speakers teaching at the many colleges and universities in Daegu.

What attracts English teachers to roles at universities? According to Lee Byeong Wan, professor and economist at Yeungnam University, the leading factors include:  the opportunity for professional development, the intellectually stimulating environment, longer vacations, and the multiple perspectives that are included in faculty evaluation systems, such as feedback from students, colleagues and staff.
John Teaching
My YU colleague, Professor John H., preparing for what is sure to be a great lesson
Successful English teachers at the university-level tend to demonstrate several attributes. Professor Lee found that the characteristics of effective EFL/ESL instructors include: enthusiasm, preparation and patience. My personal experience bears this out. A significant lack of any of these factors can present problems for a native speaking university instructor or professor.

Over the last several decades there is an unmistakable upward trend in the number of native English speakers teaching in Korea. Factors influencing this trend include: the economic conditions in one's home country; personal interest in a new cross-cultural experience and the salary, benefits and work conditions at the Korean work site. The latter, of course, vary from school to school. But university instructors and professors generally find their compensation to be at the higher end of the English educator salary pay continuum. Workloads, while sometimes challenging, tend to be significantly less than those faced by teachers at Hagwons, elementary, middle or high schools. Professors generally have teaching loads of 12-18 hours/week. Instructors usually teach 17 hours/week or more.
Universities usually ensure that English teachers have comfortable and well-equipped offices. This is a shared office at Yeungnam University
Many college-level teachers have master's degrees and even doctorates. However, there are many individuals teaching English at universities who do not have graduate degrees. Yeungnam University, for example, recently eliminated its previous requirement of a master's degree for a professor’s position--this change is said to provide the university greater flexibility in its recruitment efforts. On the flip-side however, many schools require prior university-level teaching experience from their candidates.

As would be expected, compensation varies widely. One recent survey of 30 Korean universities found that starting annual salaries for university level English teachers with a master's degree was between 35,000,000 – 37,000,000 won. For faculty with a bachelor's degree, the starting salary was 26,700,000 won. In terms of housing support, 37% offered a housing allowance or free housing.
YU Cherry Blossoms
Of course, a university English position usually comes with a campus--often a beautiful one. This is Yeungnam University during April's Cherry Blossom season. YU's campus is nearly 1,000 acres
If you are considering a university-level English teaching position, a good place to start is to speak with someone who is currently in the role. Networking is an important strategy in any job search, and that goes for  teaching English at the university level as well. Use your connections, make contacts through friends and friends of friends, and set up an “informational interview” to learn more about a particular college environment, a school or department’s work and learning climate and what a typical week is like. For example, at Yeungnam University’s Foreign Language Institute, all faculty members are expected to also work several hours a week at the school’s English Help Desk. In addition, staff members have the opportunity to coach students one-on-one through a special program sponsored by the Institute.
Engaged Faculty
Highly engaged faculty. YU Professors meeting to discuss plans for the spring semester
University job openings can be found on the various university websites. Popular on-line sites include Dave’s ESL Café and ARJK.

Education continues to be an important contributing factor to Korea’s success. And with more than 20 colleges and universities in the Daegu area, the teaching of English is an important economic stimulant to the area's economy. Make your mark, teach at a Daegu “U.”

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Tunnel of Love: The Persimmon Wine Tunnel in Cheongdo

One of the most pleasant day-trips from Daegu is a visit to Cheongdo’s Persimmon Wine Tunnel. Persimmons, one of Korea’s most popular autumn icons, serve to announce the end of the fall season here. The fruit, flush with vitamins A and C, is renowned in Korea for its benefits to skin and health, including providing help with bronchitis, diabetes, high blood pressure. It’s even said to be helpful in dealing with cancer (certainly check with your doctor on this stuff!).
Light display inside the Persimmon Wine Tunnel in Cheongdo
Perhaps even more surprising was to learn that persimmons can produce a rather intriguing wine. And, as the intrigue continues, in Korea one can find the world’s first persimmon wine cellar in the form of a former train tunnel over 1,000 meters long. The tunnel, built during the Joseon Dynasty, was constructed between 1896-1904, as part of the old Gyeongbuk Railway Line.
As good fortune would have it, tunnel conditions are perfect for the aging of persimmon wine. The temperature stays at 15˚C  (59˚F) and between 60-70% humidity–which means that a visit during the summer months (especially) is wonderfully refreshing. Actually a visit to the tunnelanytime is comfortable. There is a pleasant eating area in the tunnel which serves cheese, fruit and, of course, delicious wine.
Great spot for enjoying your persimmon wine with some cheese and fruit
The whole atmosphere is rather low-key. And once I sipped the persimmon wine I was smitten! It has a soft, sweet taste, a near magical golden-orange hue and is a wonderful partner to almost any cheese or fruit. The tunnel, first opened in 2006, has plenty of free parking. Pleasantly enough, admission is also free, making this a hard-to-resist adventure just a hop, skip and jump from Daegu.
Friendly vendor selling dried persimmon and other persimmon products outside the tunnel entrance
And while you’re in Cheongdo, another fun experience is the nearby Bull Fighting Arena–about a 10-minute drive from the wine tunnel. That makes for two amazing destinations, in one special locale, only a short distance from Daegu.
Group reservations for the wine tunnel should be made 2-3 days in advance. FMI contact 82-54-371-1100. Operating hours are 9:30-20:00. Parking and admission are both free.
Getting There: Trains depart Dong Daegu Station for Cheongdo Station about every 20-30 minutes. The first train is 6:00, the last train is 23:16. Travel time on the train is about 20 minutes. Once at Cheongdo Station, take a taxi to the Wine Tunnel.
Post written by: Steven Schuit

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Look What's Brewing in Daegu

For many people, finding their way to their morning cup of coffee is nearly a religious experience–one filled with rituals, precise preparation, and of course, the right coffee.  Heaven forbid if anyone or anything gets between me and my first morning cup of Joe. Coffee and Korea have become almost synonymous. Korea is now a world leader in terms of both the number of coffee outlets here and coffee consumption.
Warning: Don't get between me and my first cup of Joe in the morning

Years before Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts reached these friendly shores, and before Paris Baguette and Angel-In-Us blanketed the Korean landscape, traditional Korean coffee houses, called Ta-Bahngs (다방), could be found everywhere. Hard core black coffee was presented in ceramic cups and saucers by young women who were expected to sit with customers (usually men) and serve-up smiles and entertaining banter.
Daegu’s old-style 다방 have gone the way of the oxen and carts that were regularly seen on the city’s streets. Today, the Starbucks’ mermaid and Angel-In-Us angel are the ubiquitous new ladies on the block.
Daegu’s coffee options: The big coffee franchises and your local independent coffee house. My personal favorite, Cafepresso (center), in Gyeungsan
Caution: Coffee Is Hot!  Korea and Coffee by the Numbers:
  1. Paris Baguette, with more than 2,900 stores in Korea, also has 15 stores in the U.S. and more than 50 in China.
  2. Starbucks, with 288 coffee shops in Korea, opened its first store at Ewha Women’s University in July 1999.
  3. Daegu’s Exhibit and Convention Center was the site of the Daegu Coffee Fair, an international trade show for coffee related products, which just took place right here in Daegu, Nov. 1-4.
  4. South Korea is the 11th biggest coffee market in the world. By 2011, the number of coffee shops in Korea reached 12,381–which was up 54% from just the previous year.
  5. Brazil and Vietnam (a distant 2nd), are the world’s leading exporters of coffee.
I like to support my favorite local coffee house, Cafepresso, located just south of Yeungnam University. Owner and barista, Seung Ho Baek, buzzes with enthusiasm and pride as he serves up lattes, espresso, Dutch coffee, and other wonderfully customized brews. And, it’s hard to refrain from Cafepresso’s mouth watering pastries and desserts. According to Seung Ho, “both young and old love their coffee in Korea.”
One might wonder how local, independent coffee houses like his can thrive given the competition from the big coffee franchises. While big chains have, according to Seung Ho, “overwhelming power with big money which is always a threat for the weak, there are pros and cons.” He notes that “big brands like Starbucks create a good image of espresso coffee for those who are unfamiliar with espresso style.” Ever the optimist, he sees the “big guys” providing coffee awareness which benefits his business.
Coffee is believed to have first been discovered in the northeast region of Ethiopia. Today, green coffee is one of the most highly traded commodities in the world. It is also one of the most consumed drinks. How does that intoxicating brew get to you? First, the ripe coffee berry gets picked, then processed, dried, roasted, ground, brewed, and finally, served according to your preference.
Speaking of preferences, mine are a hot cafe latte or an Americano with milk or cream. The latter, sometimes presents me with a problem, as most Korean servers can’t seem to visualize an Americano with white stuff in it. But, I go with the flow, and in the Daegu area, what’s flowing is good coffee.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Run for Your Life!

On behalf of Daegu's 2.6 million people you are cordially welcomed to the 2013 Daegu International Marathon being held on Sunday, April 14. OK, you may not be one of the 0.5% of the people out there who run marathons, but this race also features a 10K and 10K Fun Run.

Perhaps you made a New Year's resolution to get into shape or lose weight. Maybe you've always wanted to try running a road race that was a more reasonable length. Or, maybe like me, you're an occasional 10K runner. As the cold weather tapers, it's a great time to dust off the ol' running shoes (or buy new ones), stretch those muscles and introduce the wind to your hair. Regardless of your running experience, put April 14 on your calendar and join the fun!
Road races are fun events. Just ask these two runners*
OK, you are thinking, where do I even start? First, find one buddy you can run with--someone to support you, motivate you and yes, even push you. Second, set realistic expectations. Start with walking and gradually expand your ratio from walking to running. Third, choose a specific, reachable, yet challenging goal for yourself.
Done right, and with appropriate preparation, running IS VERY GOOD FOR YOU. Here are 5 running tips to keep in mind:
1. Always stretch and warm-up your muscles before and after running.
2. Hydrate yourself by drinking 1, 2, or even 3 liters of water every 24 hours while you're training.
3. Eat well. Load up on carbohydrates, like pasta, the night prior to a race or longer run.
4. Develop a good training program. Be consistent. Reward yourself for making progress.
5. Set goals for yourself.
A good place to start is with a pair of quality running shoes. New Balance are my personal favorites because they come in all sizes and widths, are made well and are competitively priced. You can also get some good suggestions from friends who currently run or have experience with road races. Daegu's many parks, riverside trails, and school running tracks are perfect for training.
Whatever your goal, there is a road race and pace for you!*
If you are a beginner, you may have some basic questions. Several of them are asked and answered here.
Any runner, neophyte or experienced, will find these running and training reminders helpful. 

Hey, there are some dissenting voices out there. Let's give that perspective some air-time. Here's a runner who wants you to know that running in Korea is not always fun.

But we're here to cheer you on! There isn't a better feeling than crossing the finish line in any race. When that medal is handed to you, you'll feel like a million bucks--make that 1,089,800,000 won.
Waeguks Got Runs is a great Facebook Group for expat running enthusiasts in Korea.
Marathon Online is a good resource for running in Korea (Korean language only).
The Daegu International Marathon (and 10K) will attract people, not only from Daegu and Korea, but from around the world. Once on the site, click on the language button on the top of the page. You can register on-line from here or download a registration form. See you on April 14th!

*photos thanks to HAPS (The Magazine for What's Happening)