Take-Two: LVC Alum Extends Fulbright Grant

Lebanon Valley College graduate Kristy Sonberg ’18 loved her year living and teaching in South Korea so much, she requested to extend her English Teaching Assistant grant through the Fulbright Program for a second year. The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government. 

Sonberg, a native of Maryland and an early childhood and special education graduate, was one of three LVC students named as a Fulbright Finalist in May 2018. 

We re-connected with Sonberg who shared updates and her eagerness for another year of teaching, learning, and cultural development. 

 

Where She Lives

Sonberg lives and teaches in a rural town with a population of nearly 12,000 people, approximately 10 miles from South Korea’s Demilitarized Zone. There are numerous military bases nearby, and she is about a 45-minute bus ride to the closest town, and then another hour to Seoul, the country’s capital.

She lives in a homestay with the family of one of her students. “I live with my host parents and their three children, share meals with them, and am essentially another member of the family.”

 

What She Teaches

Sonberg teaches English to fourth- and fifth-grade students and optional afterschool classes for students and teachers. 

“For my regular classes, I teach 40-minute classes with a textbook. I spend half that class period doing supplemental games and activities of my choice. My afterschool classes are based typically on how the students like to learn, and include games, crafts, and movies.”

Sonberg is the fifth Fulbright teacher at her school and said the native English teachers are often students’ only exposure to U.S. culture. “Part of my job is to be a cultural ambassador. I am excited when students and teachers ask me questions about the U.S. and my life there. From my fourth and fifth graders, I have answered questions about the age someone can get a driver’s license and if students in the U.S. have to go to afterschool academies as they do. I’ve talked about sports, school, and so much more with them.”

 

When She’s Not at School

Sonberg takes Taekwondo classes—with some of her students as classmates—and also studies Korean. “Even though I am here to teach English, I believe learning the language is essential to understand the country’s culture. In my free time, I continue to be a student despite having my degree.”

She often travels around the country on the weekends and has visited famous places such as Jeju-do, Seoul, and Busan, trying new foods along the way. 

 

How LVC Prepped Her for Success

“Mostly, I owe my success in Korea to the training I received as an education major. Even though I never trained to be an English teacher, the classes that I took during at LVC taught me to think critically and creatively to teach students who speak a different language. My education gave me experiences and knowledge that I could draw from to create engaging lessons and combat classroom management issues for myself and other grantees who didn’t have the experience I had.”

Sonberg cited her experience in writing lessons, effectively using a textbook, and differentiating her teaching to meet the needs of all her students. “LVC gave me advantages that I didn’t know I needed. I am so thankful to have had my time at LVC and look forward to continuing representing them, proud to tell people I am a Dutchman.”