Interested in an opportunity for educators to visit South Korea with almost all expenses paid? 

Let’s hear about it from two teachers who recently participated in this sponsored travel program which you can apply for, too!

Teaching Traveling: Welcome to Karen and Julie! Please tell us about your background.

Gyeongbokgung Palace South Korea

Julie at Gyeongbokgung Palace, South Korea.

Karen: My name is Karen Krzystof-Bansley. I’ve been teaching for 21 years in the suburbs of Chicago. I’ve taught 6th grade for the last 15 years. As an avid traveler since I graduated from Eastern Illinois University; I’ve been fortunate to have visited 47 states mainly with my 13-year old daughter.

I’ve also traveled to 37 countries so far! As a lifelong learner I really use this time to learn about the places I’m visiting. I seek out many teacher travel opportunities as I find that they are very worthwhile. Traveling with others who share common interests is a great way to spend my summer!

Julie: My name is Julie Cross. I have been teaching High School Social Studies for 26 years. During this time I have mainly taught in Alternative Education, although I am moving to a mainstream setting this fall. I believe continued learning and travel are required as a social studies teacher to increase teaching skills and student learning.

I have participated in many summer teacher seminars and trips over the past several years. They keep me energized and excited to go back and teach each year. These trips are a benefit to my own personal growth, but I also share this growth with my students and colleagues.

New Civic Center in Seoul representing the “New Wave” of South Korea.

New Civic Center in Seoul representing the “New Wave” of South Korea.

TT: Well said. Tell us more about your teacher trip to Korea.

Karen: In July of 2019 I traveled to Korea through the Teachers’ Research trip to Korea. This opportunity was sponsored by World History Digital Education and the Korean War Legacy Foundation.

This 9-day trip visited so many important locations. These included Bulguksa Buddhist Temple, Silla Graves, DMZ (demilitarized zone), Blue House (Korea’s White House), Seoul’s major attractions and more.

It was amazing to see firsthand how South Korea has transformed since the Korean War. The transformation of their economy was particularly interesting to learn about. Additionally, the people were so welcoming and the food was amazing!

Julie: I was fortunate to be chosen as a participant of the 2019 Teacher’s Research trip to Korea. I first met the leaders of this project at the NCSS in Chicago last fall. I attended a pre-clinic on Korea with the World History Digital Foundation. I learned so much at this workshop and used the curriculum in my classroom.

The focus of the pre-clinic was how the Republic of Korea was able to rise from the devastation of the Korean War to a successful democracy and leading economic global power. The research trip was amazing. We learned about the past and present in Korea and why it is pertinent that we teach Korea in all Social Studies classes. The people are a model of good citizenry and community hard work.

Overnight stay at a Buddhist temple.

Karen (second from left) after an overnight stay at a Buddhist temple.

TT: Fascinating. How did you find this travel opportunity? 

Karen: I was able to learn about this unique opportunity at the 2019 NCSS conference in Chicago. I spent a lot of time looking at the vendors and the opportunities available for teachers.

I also feel that there’s not enough emphasis on Asian studies in my education. Due to this, I seek out as many opportunities to learn about Asia as possible. Luckily there are a lot of opportunities such as a teacher’s workshop about sijo poetry.

Julie: I heard about this opportunity on a Facebook site for teachers. Because I had attended a class with the foundation at NCSS, I knew that I had a huge respect for their commitment and purpose. I also wanted to continue my study of Korea to the benefit of my students and fellow teachers. Korea is in the news all the time and the students have questions about it. I wanted to be able to explain the background to the news stories.

An "Old Hot Dog" stand in South Korea.

An “Old Hot Dog” stand in South Korea. Karen opted not to try it, though she loved other Korea foods!

TT: So true. How did you find the money to fund your travel? 

Karen: In order to fund my travels, I do take on additional side jobs. The most helpful way to help with my travels is to earn as many frequent flyer miles using my United credit card. Usually I can earn enough miles for one free round-trip international flight per year.

Also, I apply for multiple teacher travel grants each year. Filling out applications for fellowships is like a second job! I’ve been fortunate to have been accepted to TOP (travel to Germany) and the Olympic Friendships program (travel to Japan.) These experiences inspire me to share what I’ve learned with my students.

Julie: I also use a credit card to earn miles. Generally though, travel opportunities come with generous grants and stipends. If you are willing to research the opportunities and apply, the foundations support you with most of the expenses. I also traveled with TOP to Germany and have received money to attend other summer seminars in the United States.

Furthermore, I take on other jobs in my school district to fund travel. I have worked as a mentor, led professional development learning communities, and clubs in order to assure my ability to participate in travel. The learning experience is more than worth the extra time I put in. Plus, I generally grow personally from these other school experiences.

At the DMZ, where it's possible to see to North Korea. Using the binoculars, Karen was able to see people working in the fields.

At the DMZ, where it’s possible to see to North Korea. Using the binoculars, Karen was able to see people working in the fields.

TT: Tell us one moment from your travels that was particularly powerful.

Karen: Our group stopped at Pohang fish market and it was mesmerizing to see all the fresh seafood available in one place. While I was admiring a king crab of immense size, I noticed a weird sensation on my shoulder. I turned my head and screamed like a little girl! One of the food vendors decided to place a king crab on my shoulder. I definitely wasn’t expecting that.

While traveling via train from Seoul Station, I was chatting with Julie and we were passing the time. I guess I didn’t realize how loud we were! We were shushed by a car attendant who walked up and down the train and maintained a quiet noise level.

Another memory that stands out was when members of our group (who were descendants of Korean War veterans) were able to ring the Peace Bell at the DMZ. I had chills when this happened. It is apparent that the Korean people appreciate the effort of the veterans and are so grateful for the transformation of their country.

I have personally spoken to multiple Korean War veterans since this trip, and I’ve shared that their efforts in Korea are not forgotten. I’ve spoken with several Korean vets at various locations and I express my gratitude for their military service. This experience has made me more appreciative of the difference that our military has made in foreign locations.

The infamous king crab that was unexpectedly placed on Karen's shoulder. She screamed!

The infamous king crab that was unexpectedly placed on Karen’s shoulder. She screamed!

Julie: The day spent at the DMZ was very powerful. Gazing out from a platform across the border at North Korea and their fake village felt surreal. Also, the South Koreans have built a train station that is ready to service travelers to North Korea should reunification ever occur. That was very affecting.

At this station Germany gave South Korea a part of the Berlin Wall with a sign that marks how long Germany was divided. On the other side of the wall there is a running clock that notes the seconds, hours, days, months, and years that Korea has been divided. I was choked up with the possibility that the clock may one day stop.

Finally we learned about the Peace Village that lives within the DMZ. These people were caught between borders at the end of the war and would have starved if not for the aid of the military. Yet, they must live within the confines of a military base along the border.

We also attended lectures on the economic history of South Korea. I get emotional and want to educate others on the amazing progress The Republic of Korea has made since the devastation of the Korean War. They were one of the poorest nations on earth in 1953, but used their aid money for education and progress with a strong work ethic.

Today they have accomplished a peaceful democracy and a strong economy and that is a testament to the people themselves. In 2017 they had a peaceful rebellion lasting several weeks in the streets of Seoul. They were able to impeach their president and begin anew. That is a lesson for the world.

Visiting the DMZ.

Visiting the DMZ.

TT: How have your travels impacted you in your career, and as a person?

Karen: My travels have had a profound impact on the person that I am today. It is a priority for me to learn about other cultures and to share my knowledge with others. About five years ago, I started Family Geography Night at my school. At this evening event, students and their families learn about other cultures in a fun and engaging way.

Usually there’s a cultural performance in the gym, then that is followed by games and learning experiences in the classrooms. This successful event has been run mainly by students in my Global Citizen Club. As you may have guessed, our next theme will be a Korean Family Geography Night! It’s important for students to be exposed to other cultures from a young age.

Julie: I believe my travels have impacted my career in a very positive way. I can relate personal stories and pictures to the curriculum. Students like that and get drawn into the lesson. I have also broadened my curriculum. I can make connections across the curriculum more easily with greater knowledge.

For instance, I never taught about Korea when teaching medieval history. Now I know that the Koreans invented the first metal movable type before Guttenberg. I am able to check in on so many more developments across the world for greater global study. For myself, I have broadened the concept of global citizenry.

When you travel and meet people from other countries and continents you develop a greater understanding of the cultures and history with a kinship of experience. When I meet people from Vietnam, Korea, or Germany, I can reference personal experience and develop a more meaningful conversation.

In sharing about these places I have more than a superficial understanding. My favorite part of teaching are the social anecdotes from the past and present and I get these from class and travel. Finally, I am hosting the World Culture Club at school this year. I feel better able to host this group having traveled myself.

A beautiful Buddhist temple in South Korea.

A beautiful Buddhist temple in South Korea.

TT: So, what advice do you have for teachers who are dreaming of travel? 

Karen: If you are a teacher who hasn’t explored teacher travel fellowships, now’s the time to do so! You have nothing to lose. Many of these opportunities are fully funded, or only require a minimal financial contribution. It is worth the time and effort of applying.

Keep in mind though that many of these opportunities are very competitive. It is important to take each application seriously and really consider how it will impact your students. One of my favorite resources aside from this website is a Facebook group called Scholarships, Grants and Summer Institutes for Teachers.

Julie: I agree with Karen! I found out about most of the opportunities through NCSS and the Facebook site. However, the more you participate, the more you hear about by word of mouth. Before I joined the Facebook site, I studied the internet for ideas.

By looking up teacher travel I came upon Lillie Marshall’s list of teacher travel opportunities and other lists. Everyone has a chance to travel/study in the US and abroad. The opportunities are competitive, but if you keep trying and apply to many opportunities you will have success.

That said, you do have to put the effort in and complete the tasks that are asked of the candidate. Networking with other teachers and getting advice also helps. Finally, don’t be afraid that you are too young or too old.

I started applying as an older teacher and have had good success. I have also traveled abroad with programs that included newer teachers. The main thing to keep in mind is how you can benefit your students and the organization by attending the program.

Sponsored travel to South Korea for Teachers

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TT: Thanks so much! Readers, what questions or comments do you have about this sponsored South Korea travel opportunity for educators?

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