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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Having the world as your classroom

Friday, July 29, 2011

Suwon is a city of contrasts. Much of it is new and attractive, such as this fine park, which is adjacent to ancient landmarks. Many high - rise city buildings are mixed in with smaller older buildings. Much rebuilding has been done since 1950. Photo contributed.
Laptop for communication - Sarah Letsche wouldn't know what to do without her laptop computer as it has become an essential tool to communicate with family and friends and access to much knowledge. Photo by Nancy Hohbach
Having the ability to think long term and setting goals for one's life is definitely a huge plus for any person to make the most out of your life. After all, we do not get a dress rehearsal how to live one's life. It's best to get it right the first time around.

Sarah Letsche, a 2001 graduate of Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn High School, was an honor student and earned many honors. She continued her education at Iowa State University as an art student for four years earning a Bachelor degree. Letsche made the decision in 2006 to attend the University of Northern Iowa to earn her certification as an art instructor. It was during these years that she traveled to Thailand twice as a member of a group of volunteers with missionaries doing work there. Each trip covered a period of two months.

That spring as Letsche was doing substitute teaching, she attended a job fair in Waterloo where hundreds of school representatives from around the world were present to entice new teachers to come and teach in their various homelands. She had several job offers but she chose to go to South Korea. One of the first things she noticed about this country's cities was how new much of the buildings were there. The cities had areas of squalor, but much was new and sleek.

Art creativity with the young at heart - This international kindergarten class is busy with their art class. Coming from different cultures, they all find something in common here and concentrate on their work. Guess who the teacher is? No wonder Sarah Letsche loves her job. Photo contributed
"I will begin teaching my fourth year of Kindergarten through the eighth grade there. The first time you sign up, it is for a two year stint. After that, you may sign up for one year at a time. I find it enriching to travel and learn about other cultures. Although when I signed up to go to South Korea, I was on my own where before I traveled in a group. After I arrived there, Much to my surprise, there was another girl from Iowa whom I had spoken with some at the job fair. Neither of us knew what decision the other had made so it was quite a surprise when we met up with each other. There was also another girl from Texas who I had talked with. I have made friends with several teachers as we started our first year together and we remain friends," commented Letsche.

Letsche noted that South Koreans eat pork and beef along with rice and noodles. Fresh fruit is expensive there as are chocolate chips.

The school she teaches at is a private Christian School in a new building. The school is named Gyeonggi Suwon International School. The school itself has existed for 50 years but Letsche is able to teach in the new building as the school keeps growing. Each student has there own laptop computer which parents purchase. All supplies are purchased by the school. Students speak English which is taught from an early age. The parents encourage and demand their children do well to get good grades so that one day they may travel to the U.S. and attend school at a top U.S. university. According to Letsche, that is their goal for their children.

Modern city -Suwon How would you like to live in one of these fine apartment buildings that tower above the trees and play equipment in the park? One can quickly conclude that not all residents own a personal vehicle. This is city living. Photo contributed
"Wouldn't that be great if parents here would promote education in the same way? The students do not rebel as Korean students place education first over getting a job to earn money for a car or just to go out and have a good time. (Students can't get a driver's license until they are 20.) Many will attend classes up to 10 p.m. at night and then start the day all over again. School comes first. There doesn't seem to be any problem with discipline there. There are higher caliber instructors at the high school level where expectations are much higher. The parents put pressure on the kids to do well from little on. It is there culture. Parents keep checking their children's scores to make sure they are doing well," said Letsche.

Concentrating on their work - These seventh graders are busy working on their latest art project. Check out the project on the right side of the pic. The children learn to express themselves through various mediums. Photo contributed.
Letsche teaches with others from around the world which makes for some interesting friendships as she learns about their cultures. The school pays for the furnished apartment she lives in which are built in complexes. She only has to walk 10 minutes to get to her school. Otherwise, she uses public transportation (bus or subway) which she feels very safe on. She thinks the country as a whole is quite safe to be in. She has traveled to the DMZ twice where she felt no tension there at all. Her school life keeps her fairly busy. They have eight weeks off in the summer when the school will pay for a round trip ticket home to visit. Christmas offers another good size break. But on two of those she has visited Thailand and also Australia. The school pays for medical and dental care. To recruit Americans, many benefits are offered.

"In my spare time I enjoy the many restaurants, musical shows and films. I buy most of my clothes when I'm back in the states as a size 8 is large for them. They pay me monthly in Korean money which is what I use to live on while I'm there. Once every three months, I am paid in U.S. currency and that I have sent back here to the bank.

Letsche says much of the country is fairly new and pleasant but she misses open spaces (countryside) and seeing the sun rise or set. The country isn't as polluted as China. She misses grilling food which she enjoyed much of while home.

Letsche is contemplating where she might teach when this term is over. She has thought of someplace in Europe but it could be anywhere. There is much to see and do around the world and her education of the world is not complete yet. She keeps in contact with home through emails and skypes, this isn't your grandpappy's world anymore.

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