|With Korean friends at a local park, Spring 1975|
After our swearing-in ceremony at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, I was assigned to teach English at Keimyung College in Daegu. Korea in those days was a developing country; there was virtually no middle class, few private cars, our classrooms were either freezing cold or sweltering, and always poorly lit. But Korean students then were all on a mission--working hard to succeed in school and to learn English to help propel their country forward. Little did they know they were indeed participating in a historic economic miracle.
Life as a Peace Corps volunteer then was challenging. There were few expats, fewer phones, and if you sent a letter home, you'd be lucky to hear back in 4-6 weeks, if at all. Communication was face to face. You would make arrangements days in advance to meet at a specific time and place, write it down and keep your fingers crossed. Students clamored for time with you to practice their English and to find out as much as possible about the world outside Korea. It was, as the Peace Corps ad says, "The toughest job you will ever love."
|Several of my students at Keimyung College in Daegu in 1974|
When I left Korea in the mid-seventies I was certain I would never see it again. As the years passed, the recollections of my life in Korea crystallized into increasingly romanticized memories. They became nearer and dearer to me in my life's side-view mirror.
|Caution: Memories Are Closer and More Powerful Than They Appear|
Fast forward to 2011. Korea, now the 15th strongest economy in the world, welcomed me back as a professor of English. I have returned to the same metropolitan area I once lived in as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I am now on the faculty of Yeungnam University, a vibrant, international campus with 27,000 students.
|Current students enjoying a lighter moment before|
the start of class. Yeungnam University, Fall 2014.
My Korean students today are the sons and daughters of those very spirited students I taught years ago. My two stints in Korea have become bookends on my life. Who says you can't go home again?