Magazine Feature / People

Fulbright scholar teaches English in South Korea

For Laura Johnson (BA ’06, MA ’07) teaching English in an Asian country was always an aspiration. After getting her master’s in literature this spring, Johnson’s teaching aspirations have been paired with a desire to also communicate her understanding of the English language to students.

The Fulbright Program is allowing Johnson to fulfill this dual dream by providing the necessary support for her to work as an English teaching assistant in South Korea for the upcoming academic year. 

Johnson wrote her thesis on the relationship between Old English elegiac poetry and the work of Victorian poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. 

“At first blush, it seems like there’s no connection to my Fulbright experience here,” she says. “But in reality, I hope to teach the history of the English language to my students, who have been doing mostly grammar drills for 10 years. I hope to give them some background for the language they are learning. I want to give it a story.”

University of Denver English Professor Alexandra Olsen describes Johnson as one of the best students she’s had in 27 years. Johnson studied Old English, Old Norse, English grammar and the history and structure of the English language under Olsen. 

“An intimate knowledge of Old English gives a person a great background for teaching English as a second language because they understand the history of English intimately and can really teach more than just ‘don’t use no double negatives,’” Olsen explains.

Johnson is already in Chuncheon, South Korea, where she’s learning Korean and teaching at Camp Fulbright, an intensive English-immersion summer camp. She believes her current experiences could lead to more work teaching English as a second language. 

While she’s still getting used to Korean food, Johnson says she hopes that her current experiences also provide fodder for fiction writing. Along with literature, Johnson studied creative writing in DU’s English department.

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