The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

May 7, 2013

Goose Lake woman teaches in South Korea

By Mary Lou Hinrichsen
Herald Staff Writer

GOOSE LAKE — A Goose Lake woman will be heading home soon after teaching in South Korea since June 2012.

Joelle Gluesing told the Clinton Herald that the experience has given her a completely new perspective on the rewards involved in teaching.

“This job has given me a huge sense of gratitude toward every teacher I have had. You really have to care for the students and not mind the extra work involved in making a class stand out,” she said.

Joelle is a graduate of Northeast High School in Goose Lake and the University of Iowa, where she received a BA in anthropology.

“I teach 34 classes per week and each class has anywhere from 4 to 12 kids, ages 5 to 15. My favorite classes, by far, are the upper-level writing courses that our ‘hogwan’ is famous for because I get to really talk to the kids one on one. A lot of the upper level children have spent time in America, so conversation comes easy and they enjoy cracking jokes with me.

“I actually created the writing workbook that that class uses, so as I teach I’m also kind of working out the quirks that come up along the way. The academy I work at, Reading Star, is in the process of growing and so the workbooks for writing and literature classes that we create are eventually going to be sold to other academies that want to follow our model.

“Public schools are different. The teachers don’t put in as many hours as we do (students attend public school from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., and then attend different academies like Reading Star until sometimes 10 p.m.) and don’t have as many responsibilities, since it’s not a business and there isn’t pressure to keep enrollment up. I don’t know much about them other than that the teachers seem a lot more relaxed."

Grandpa was stationed in Korea

“While I really value the professional experience here in Korea, one of the coolest things about being here is that my Grandpa, Wally Kruse of Goose Lake, was stationed here for two years during the Korean War. He was stationed all over the Korean peninsula, but I think what stood out for him was his time on Jeju Island.

“Jeju is now called ‘the Hawaii of Korea’ and is filled with vacationers. But when he lived there it was dirt poor and rural. Getting to visit there in mid-May is one of the experiences I’ve most looked forward to during my time here."

Ah, the monk

“Most of Korea is Christian, but there is also a large number of Buddhists, including some of the friends I’ve made here. One day my American co-worker and I were exploring downtown Gwangju and just happened upon this out of place temple in the middle of the city. It was so calm and inviting that we walked in to explore and take a few pictures.

“A monk approached us and invited us for tea, and we spent the afternoon with him, learning about his life and about Buddhism. A Korean couple poked their heads in at one point to visit him, and somehow my coworker and I got invited out to dinner at a traditional sit-on-the-floor-and-eat-out-of-the-communal-stoneware-bowls restaurant.

“The man was a government official and they had lived everywhere. They were new to Gwangju and their visit to the monk (I’m guessing) was to establish their relationship with the city’s Buddhist community.

“They didn’t think twice about inviting us to share their meal. It’s something that happens a lot to foreigners in South Korea. We are strangers in their country and sometimes we are looked down upon because we don’t speak the language, but the majority of the people are open hearted."

Bit by the bug

Joelle said she got bitten by the travel bug when she visited Ireland with her cousins at the age of 17.

“I’ve been looking for every excuse to see the world ever since. In college I did a stint as an archaeologist in the Netherlands, I went back to Dublin as an intern at the National Museum of Ireland, visited family friends in Denmark and spent three weeks in India.

“I would recommend travel to anyone, especially students who are thinking about it. It’s the chance to live and thrive on your own and meet a whole new network of friends.”

She has been accepted into the master’s program at the University of Northern Iowa, where, she said, “I want to work in Study Abroad in order to help others start off on their adventures and change their lives for the better.”

What about North Korea?

Joelle said people in South Korea “are really not concerning themselves with North Korea. My Korean boss and her husband recently went on a business trip to the US and were completely shocked by the amount of coverage North Korea is getting on the news there.

“But the South Korean people are fairly used to this sort of thing, which happens every few years. My coworkers are quick to roll their eyes at any threatening North Korean behavior and assure us that nobody is too worried. My parents, however, aren’t nearly so nonchalant about it.”