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My Winter Vacation, Part I February 17, 2011

Posted by Matt Miller in Fulbright, Korea, Undergraduate.
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The Korean school year begins in March, not August or September, so the long break for the year is in the winter instead of the summer. Here I am, then, with one month to go in winter vacation and a moment to reflect.

Matt Miller winter vacation

Matt Miller traveled to Vietnam and Cambodia during his winter vacation.

After a few relaxing days in Korea, my winter break adventures began in Vietnam. A few other Fulbright teachers and I trekked through the mountains near Sapa, cruised in Ha Long Bay, and ate all the pho we could. In Hoi An one of my long held dreams came true: I bought a beautiful custom-made suit.

Shortly after New Year’s day, I bid farewell to my companions and headed to Cambodia. The highlights there were bonding with the monks in Battambang and biking around the ruins at Angkor. The fifty cent whole pineapples, sometimes topped with spicy chili salt, lent a deliciousness to the whole affair.

I returned in early January to the same frigid school building that I had left behind. However, the atmosphere had changed. Gone were the throngs of students and most of the faculty was absent. A more subdued aura filled the building. The only people in school were the teachers and students participating in winter learning camps and teachers on desk-warming duty. (This is exactly what it sounds like.)

I taught two-week winter camps for rising second and third year middle school students. These classes were among the best of my young teaching career. The boys in my camps were high-level students who sought extra practice over winter break. Classes were half the size of normal ones and met daily, as opposed to the usual rotation of once every two weeks (which is necessary so that I can teach every boy in school).

English language students

Second- and third-year middle school students who participated in winter learning camps

We accomplished much. After learning grammar terms and rules, we completed Mad-Libs (a game that involves prompting another player for random words which are then plugged into blanks in a story). We also made our own. Hilarity ensued. After learning about movies, we planned dinner-and-a-movie dates. After learning about my past, we wrote autobiographies. With few students and plentiful enthusiasm, there was a lot of learning and a lot of fun.

All that said, the excitement of engaging twelve hundred rambunctious boys of widely varying proficiencies has a certain allure. Putting on my finest bow tie and custom-made suit and getting back to school will be fun. Before that: Habitat for Humanity in Nepal.

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