Mary Han

Mary posing with group of students

Fulbright ETA Grant, 2013-2014

Applying for the Fulbright ETA program in South Korea was an easy decision. After graduating, I wanted to take a year and leave my safe academic bubble for a completely new environment that would challenge me in ways that I didn’t know was possible. The Fulbright program provides complete cultural immersion backed by an intensely comprehensive support system, so I knew I was in good hands.

The most challenging aspect of my time here was coming to terms with the pervading cultural dogma that most deemed holy: Perfection is vital. Whether it is physical looks or academic grades, perfection leads to prosperity. I found this mindset to be grossly at odds with the belief I deemed sacred: there is triumph in the trying. The belief that growth and betterment are worthwhile tasks themselves is of the utmost importance to me.

And therein lies the cultural exchange. Everyday I try to instill in my students to not be so afraid of failure, to never be afraid of being wrong. At the end of my time here, I hope to have enriched the life of studious Seung-ho, of curious Min-ji, and of even troublemaker Bo-ram, who, despite his classroom antics, never fails to greet me cheerfully in the hallway… ‘Maryhan Teacher!!’ ‘Teacher! How are you?’ ‘Teacher! I’m fine, thank you, and you?’