Patrick Henry College
Rebecca (left) and Carissa (right)
Carissa Davis and Rebecca Hobbs ran their hands along the Seoul Fortress Wall, built in 1396. They were awed to see and touch and experience something so ancient. They walked alongside the wall, then walked on top of it, continuing their pursuit of the mountain ahead of them. As they arrived at the top, they watched the sun set while listening to the squawking magpies and taking in the beauty as Korean hikers admired the view alongside them.
“Some things don’t need words to be shared,” they wrote on their blog, Two Friends in Korea. “[We] were overwhelmed with the same thought: ‘We’re really here. We’re really watching the sun set over the Korean mountains.’ There are no other words.”
Davis and Hobbs both graduated from PHC in May 2013 with a Classical Liberal Arts degree. Both chose to attend PHC because of its high academic standard paired with its emphasis on equipping students to glorify God in everything they do. And both credit PHC with deepening their relationship with God while teaching them to think and express opinions more eloquently.
During their senior year, they applied to work with Teach for America, but reached a closed door. Teach for America subsequently sent out various emails with partnership opportunities around the world, which Davis saved in her inbox just in case. Through her last months of college she only opened one email, telling of an opportunity to teach in South Korea. Davis applied, was interviewed, and signed the contract with them. She encouraged Hobbs to pray about the opportunity, which led her to also sign a contract.
In early September of 2013, they flew to Seoul on a Saturday, had a few hours of classroom training on Sunday, and began teaching on Monday. In Korea, kids are in school from 9am to between 7 and 10pm. Part of their day involves attending an afterschool program called a hagawon, which offers lessons in Taekwondo, swimming, and music, as well as math tutoring, and a variety of other programs. Both Davis and Hobbs arrive at the school at 9:00 am and teach in the classroom until 7:00pm.
For both, the biggest obstacle either has faced is simple communication in their new environment. Most Koreans understand English, but are not able to speak it in return. On weekends Davis and Hobbs are taking lessons in Korean, well known as one of the top five most difficult languages for Westerners to learn.
Carissa (left) and Rebecca (right)
Although they are becoming more familiar with the language, there are days where they crave familiarity and desperately want to see something in English, be able to walk into a restaurant and know what’s being served, or walk up to a stranger on the street, talk to them, and mutually understand each other. Once everything familiar was pulled away, they realized there was nothing left but to trust in God.
“I underestimated what it would feel like to be a stranger in a strange land,” Davis wrote on their blog. “But God is letting me live a life of faith. I understand so much more what it means to be an alien and stranger. For the first time, I am truly different from those around me.”
Although communication is sometimes difficult, they have made friends, attend a Bible study, go to the movies, and enjoy exploring historical museums and places. They spent their Christmas break in Thailand, both in Bangkok and on an island, and are planning a trip to China and Japan.
“I can’t believe this life I’m living,” Davis wrote on their blog. “I don’t deserve this God or this love. But He gives because He delights to give, not for deserving.”