Have you decided to turn over a new leaf in 2013? Or find a new challenge? Most people resolve to give up desserts or start exercising when they need a change. Veteran teacher Judy Fujiki flew thousands of kilometres away – away from her family, her income and cultural familiarity – to live in Seoul, Korea. While others were planning their retirement, Judy was embarking on a long-time dream – learning her fifth language. That language would be Korean.
The move to Seoul two years ago is a tribute to Judy’s high energy and her desire to better communicate with her many international students. As the International Co-ordinator and the Community Relations Head – in addition to being a language teacher – at Byrne Creek Secondary School in Burnaby, B.C., she knew learning Korean would be helpful, and immersing herself in Korean culture and customs would provide excellent insights for her work with students, parents and homestay families.
Once in Korea, Judy passed beginner’s level so quickly she quit her group lessons, and hired a private tutor. Judy was racing through one workbook a week! Two hours of structured lessons with ten hours of studying and watching Korean TV a day elevated her reading and listening ability quickly, yet her conversational ability was lagging behind. So, Judy spent the rest of her time each day searching out opportunities to improve her Korean.
Her main plan was to practice in Myeongdong in Seoul, the neighbourhood where she lived. Highly international, and providing 24 hours of shopping for citizens and tourists, Judy spent Christmas interacting with its shopkeepers. The result? “The people were so warm, so friendly,” Judy is sure to tell you. She’s also sure to joke that “it’s easier to speak Korean in Burnaby’s Koreatown than it is in Myeongdong!” Judy was routinely sought out by those in the community to speak one of the other four languages she knows. Nevertheless, Judy made good contacts and kept up her language work.
Language learning was only a small part of the inspiration Judy felt while living in Seoul. The transit was the “best in the world.” Community volunteers kept the streets “spotless.” There was “always” something “interesting to do.” And, better yet, the weather was “not as rainy as Vancouver’s.”
Judy’s adventure in Korea lasted almost three months. She returned to her work in education at last, happy to see her dear family and ready for the rest of her very busy life. You see, Judy is not satisfied with just doing anything, or simply doing nothing! She is willing to jump into many adventures without hesitation. A trip to Korea, a field trip for international students, serving a turkey dinner to the community, or opening her very own coffeehouse with her family… all of these very worthwhile endeavours she has taken on.
You won’t have to move to Korea to have a fresh start this 2013, but you could work on getting some of Judy Fujiki’s contagious enthusiasm. Judy lives life to the fullest and when she says “Every single day, I’m happy I’m alive,” she really means it.