Teachers make
connections in South Korea

Saint Peter's College teacher Claire Begovic was one of nine New Zealand teachers who travelled to South Korea as part of the Korea Studies Workshop. The one week trip saw the New Zealand teachers meet with an Australian cohort to learn about Korean culture, history and society. In this Q&A Claire talks about her time in South Korea and what she took away from the experience.
three women sitting at a dinner table with food in front of them

Claire (right) says sharing ideas with teachers from Australia and New Zealand was a highlight of the trip

Why did you want to participate in the trip?

I applied for the trip because I had never been to South Korea. I thought this would be a fantastic opportunity to see a country and experience a culture I knew little about. 

As a History teacher, I always find it easier to teach about a place that I have been to and in my experience my students also benefit from a first-hand account.

A room of adults sitting on mats looking at person at front of the room

The teachers try Zen meditation at Bongeunsa Temple, Seoul

Can you tell us about some of the activities you did in South Korea?

We were very fortunate to spend a morning at Ewha Womans University, attending three extremely interesting lectures about the economy, religion and pop culture. In addition, the trip to the Hyundai factory was a highlight. I know very little about cars, but the organisation of the assembly line and the work culture that has been established within the company was unique to witness. 

The visit to Yong-Ill High School was also fun – the students gave presentations about a variety of aspects about the Korean education system.

What was the highlight of the trip?

For me personally, I cannot single out one highlight! Meeting other teachers from New Zealand and Australia was fabulous and proved to be excellent professional development. The visit to the War Museum provided an opportunity to really reflect on the division of Korea and the ongoing effects. Meeting and listening to a North Korean defector was a unique experience and one that I feel very privileged to have experienced.

Group of teachers standing in a line in front of a building

The New Zealand teachers were joined by a contingent from Australia

What are some of the key learnings you took away from the trip?

I was totally unaware that there appears to be a keen desire for reunification. I was fascinated by the government policies, especially in education and transport, which have been created with reunification in mind. This positive forward-thinking mindset was impressive.

How do you plan to incorporate what you learnt into your teaching?

I have written a unit that examines the causes and consequences of the Korean War. I plan to use this initially with a Year 10 class to iron out any issues and make necessary improvements before potentially implementing it at NCEA.

Why do you think trips like these are important/useful?

Trips like this are so incredibly valuable. Making connections with other teachers and discussing issues in education proved to be very useful. Travelling to any country provides new learning but the experiences on the Korean Studies Workshop were ones most tourists would probably not get exposed to. I feel very fortunate to have been a part of this trip and am so very grateful for the opportunity.

Claire Begovic is a Junior Humanities and History teacher and Year 13 Academic Dean at Saint Peter's College in Auckland.

About the Korea Studies Workshop

The specific aims of the Korean Studies Workshop Programme are to:

  • explore intercultural issues within the context of one of the world’s fastest emerging social, cultural and economic powerhouses
  • forge specific links with individuals and organisations in Australia, New Zealand and South Korea that can support ongoing work in this area
  • establish a cohort of Australian and New Zealand educators with recent off-shore intercultural experiences that can lead work in this area.