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A Conversation with Brian Watts, BS ‘11

Recent Odum School graduate Brian Watts received a Fulbright Scholarship to teach English in Korea during 2011-2012. He shared some of his experiences with Odum School Director of Development Lee Snelling.

Lee Snelling: Why did you want to travel to Korea?
Brian Watts: I love Korea. That is the first point. I have been to Korea twice before and I really enjoyed my visits: the people were nothing but nice to me and when I showed my enthusiasm for learning the language and culture, they welcomed me with opened arms. For that reason, I knew I needed to return once again before I started what they call, “the real world.”

LS: What do you hope to accomplish from this experience?
BW: I hope to understand how to teach and communicate with citizens of all countries (especially my own) in a way that is productive and well received in all ecological matters.

LS: Are there any lessons from your time in the Odum School that have served you well so far?
BW: Work hard. It doesn’t matter where you are, work hard. Be happy and kind. Being in such a compact, family-like school really helped me to understand the importance of everyone’s opinions and that we should honestly try our best to be happy and accepting <95% of our lives.

LS: What stands out most from living in Korea and interacting with the people?
BW: They are ecstatic to hear foreigners speak their language. Koreans don’t really understand why outsiders would want to learn their language - in fact, a lot of Koreans don’t believe their native tongue is important in the world. Boy are they wrong! Just saying a simple phrase like ?????? “anyeonghaseyo” gets the people incredibly excited! They love it and so do I! By the way, “anyeonghaseyo” means “How are you doing?”

LS: What perception do they have of Americans?
BW: Greedy. Unhealthy. Loud. Those are common thoughts until they speak to us. Then they realize that we are all very similar and that there are many Americans who enjoy foreign culture and are willing to learn. They just have a bad perception because of our popular culture that reaches them and skewed media that appears on the internet.

LS: What do you miss most about home?
BW: My friends. 'Tis strange. Of course I miss my family but I have been with them for twenty-two years so, I know I will see them soon enough. Except I am going to miss my brother’s wedding which is a real bummer. I digress. I miss my friends slightly more because I know a lot of them are together having a great time starting a new life and I am no longer - for a year - a part of that. It took two years to make these friends and I can’t help but worry that that time may go to waste.

LS: What's your plan once you return stateside?
BW: Apply to graduate school for environmental policy or international relations, specializing in environmental law. Or something like that. Who knows? I may end up staying in Korea for another year...


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