My classes have begun, and I'm starting to settle into a groove. As I think I mentioned previously, I am required to teach 5 classes over two semesters each year. At first, I thought I would have 3 this semester and 2 in the fall. However, there weren't enough students in one class, so it's been cancelled. This is a mixed blessing for me: less work now, but more in the fall. Oh well, I'm satisfied how it's worked out.
On Monday evening, I teach an Introduction to Political Thought class to 20 international graduate students in Sejong's Asian Studies program. The students come from all over, including two guys from South Africa and one Canadian. After the first class, they took me out for a beer, and I look forward to seeng them again in a few days. I'm not an expert in this subject area, so I'll be doing lots of reading over the next 4 months to stay ahead of the students. As it turns out, I'm really looking forward to reviewing material I haven't read since I was at Stony Brook 30 years ago. Next week it's Socrates, Plato and Aristotle...
On Tuesday and Thursday afternoons I also teach a general course called Introduction to Politics and Government. This class is open to all majors, from freshmen to seniors. It's pretty low level, but fun. My goal is to help these young people better understand how politics and government work, so they can more fully participate as citizens in the process. About half the 25 students are Korean, the others are from Vietnam, Pakistan, Russia, Uzbekistan, Kazakstan, Nepal, China and Hong Kong. This should make our discussion fun, with so many different points of view in the group.
Now that I know what my teaching will be, I have also begun to think about other activities I will be doing related to work. The university expects me to produce research, so I need to zero in on a topic where I feel I have something to offer. I'm also expected to help raise the profile of the university in the broader Seoul business and government community, so I will join a couple of organizations like the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, attend conferences, attend political events with members of the Korean National Assembly, and (hopefully) deliver guest lectures at other universities in Seoul with Canadian Studies courses.
Ursula and I also want to work with North Korean defectors and become involved in a committee the Canadian Ambassador is forming to welcome athletes and dignitaries for the 2018 Winter Olympics. In short, I don't think there will be any problem staying active here.
Having said all that, the biggest priority for Ursula and me remains finding a social network for George and Molly. So far, we haven't had much luck plugging them in anywhere. Now that the basics of our day-to-day life are in place, we hope to spend more time finding new friends for them (and us). I'll keep you posted on progress.
I must also admit I have a lingering melancholy about our big trip being over. I've reread our blog several times, and find it hard to accept that we won't be back to many of those places anytime soon. In particular, I regret that we can't go back to see friends and family in Europe. At this point, the next possible visit Europe isn't until 2017, and even that would mean giving up part of our summer in Canada. I'm not sure how this will play out. Hopefully I'll come up with a plan...
In closing, I guess the best news is that my parents arrive four weeks from today. We all look forward to our time together. I found a great apartment for them very close to us, so we'll have lots of time together during their 4 week visit. The kids are especially looking forward to showing them around. Hopefully we'll have some friends to introduce them to when they're here!