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Woman earns Fulbright to teach English in S. Korea

Award based on academics, essays

Marissa Lynn adores East Asian cuisine, runs constantly and knows at least one Korean greeting: “Annyeonghaseyo,” which means “hello.”

Those attributes should prove handy come July, when the 22-year-old Bow native and Dartmouth College senior travels to Seoul, South Korea, to start a yearlong Fulbright fellowship teaching English in a Korean high school.

Lynn, who is graduating tomorrow as a member of Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in biology and a minor in Asian and Middle Eastern studies, will be among about 80 English teaching assistants working in primary and secondary schools across South Korea. She has yet to be assigned a post but knows it will likely be outside the capital, in an area with limited exposure to western language and culture.

Reached earlier this week by phone in San Francisco, where she has been interning at a health care consultancy focused on diabetes and obesity prevention, Lynn said she is thrilled about the trip.

“I chose to teach English because I had taught it before, and because I feel language is really important,” she said.

Besides English instruction, Lynn hopes to start a running club for students, and in so doing inject more physical activity into Korean school life than she understands there to be.

“I know physical education is very overlooked in Korean schools,” she said, noting accounts from former teaching assistants and her own research.

She also plans to travel extensively throughout South Korea and the region, and is interested in volunteering with North Korean defectors, an activity in which she has heard past assistants have been involved.

South Korea houses one of Fulbright’s largest and most well-known teaching assistant programs. Fellows spend an initial six weeks in intensive Korean language study, then they are placed in homestays and classrooms with up to 40 students and a strict, rote educational tradition.

“I thought it’d be interesting,” Lynn said. “You hear about Korean schools being so rigid, and I was interested in seeing how much of that is truth.”

Assistants work closely with teachers, devoting
20 hours per week to classroom instruction and the
rest to running study groups and extracurricular
activities.

Lynn said she began applying for the grant a year ago. Applicants are first screened by personal statements, essay responses and academic credentials. They are then interviewed and eventually selected by a Korean delegation.

When Lynn learned in March that she had been chosen for the program, she said she turned on Korean pop music and blared it throughout her parents’ house.

“I was very excited,” she said.

The fellowship is a noteworthy accomplishment, but it’s just one of several Lynn has racked up during her college tenure.

In addition to studying abroad on three occasions – in Barcelona, Morocco and Nepal – she also won a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship for her biomedical research on therapeutic remedies for pancreatic cancer, and completed summer internships at Harvard and Northwestern universities. She ran her first marathon last October in Chicago, and qualified for this year’s Boston Marathon, which she couldn’t attend because she was in San Francisco.

Lynn said she’s interested in attending medical school at some point, possibly as an entry point to one day working on global health policy.

“I’m not really interested in the traditional clinical path,” she said.

Of her Dartmouth tenure, Lynn noted school traditions and friends as among her fondest memories.

“Just being part of a school with such culture and traditions was really great,” she said.

(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319,
jblackman@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)

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