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Ashley Pinney '08: 'Having a blast' while teaching across the world

  • Ashley Pinney '08
    Ashley Pinney '08  The ambitious Fulbright Scholar is currently teaching English in South Korea, where she moved after her year-long teaching job in England.  Courtesy photo
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In the year and a half since she graduated from the College of William and Mary, Ashley Pinney '08 has not spent more than a few months at home at one time.  The ambitious Fulbright Scholar is currently teaching English in South Korea, where she moved after her year-long teaching job in England.  Though Pinney says she is "having a blast," she will soon be tackling a project slightly closer to home: graduate school.

Pinney grew up in Williamsburg, Va., and originally didn't want to apply to William and Mary.  Her mom told her to anyway, and when she was accepted, she realized that the College's great value and reputation were worth a shot.  Within the first week, Pinney said she "fell in love with the school."  Her admiration showed in her involvement in the Student Assembly, the service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega, Residence Hall Council, and a nursing home volunteer program.  

While working toward her degree in history with a secondary education concentration, Pinney started looking for ways to gain some experience.  She had studied abroad in Florence, Italy during sophomore year, and knew she wanted to travel more; as she put it, "When you're young, single, and have an education, it's a great time to go and just see the world."  Through the Roy. R. Charles Center, Pinney learned about a teaching program in England aimed at recent college graduates.  She thought it sounded perfect for her, and decided to apply.  The process was long and had Pinney a little anxious by mid-spring semester - she said that a lot of her graduating friends "had consulting jobs, so they knew where they were going... and then there was me going, ‘I don't know yet.'"  Luckily, Pinney learned in April that she would be leaving for England in September of 2008.

The program in England involved teaching information and technology; history; and sports to students at a boarding school in the countryside, northeast of London.  Though Pinney enjoyed the position immensely, she knew that it was a one-year program and that she had to start thinking about the future.  In October of 2008, she completed a hefty application for a Fulbright Scholarship.  It wasn't until March of 2009 that Pinney found out she had been accepted.  She decided to go to Jeju, South Korea - a picturesque island off the southern coast of Korea.  She moved there on August 17 to start orientation.

Pinney's teaching role and lifestyle now are drastically different from her time in England.  Her main project is teaching English at an all-girls high school in Jeju, but she also takes part in several Korean activities to fulfill her duty as a cultural ambassador.  Pinney is learning guitar from one of her students, as well as "having a blast" taking Tae Kwon Do lessons.

Though she says the language barrier is definitely frustrating, Pinney is taking Korean language classes to improve her fluency.  Fortunately, the daughter in Pinney's Korean "family" speaks good English, which makes it easier.  Still, Pinney explains, "I just want to say ‘thank you' so much [to the family]... and that is painful that I want to say all these things but can't."

Language isn't the only big difference in Korean living, though.  The young teacher remarked that spitting is common there, and not really frowned upon like it is in America.  She is also adjusting to the fact that the monks from the Buddhist temple nearby bathe naked in the local stream.  As Pinney puts it, "When you move here, you're like, ‘There are so many things your guidebook doesn't tell you'," but notes "what a good challenge" it is to adopt a new lifestyle and new cultural values.

Pinney's teaching contract expires in July 2010, so she's already busy applying to George Washington University's graduate school for its International Education program.  She says her ideal goal is to work at a university or college's study abroad center, to be a "liaison between international schools and [her] university."  Though she loves what she's been doing since graduating from William and Mary, she is ready to have a "more normal existence for a while."  Plus, Pinney notes that she misses being the student in the classroom - being "the receiver" of knowledge.

Pinney advises current and future students interested in education or working abroad to take advantage of the Roy R. Charles Center, get in contact with alumni (including herself), ask a lot of questions, and go to study-abroad meetings-even if they don't sound like the ideal trip.  She comments, "[My] generation is so lucky... I'm able to travel and get paid for it!"  She also credits William and Mary with her success abroad and in the teaching field, explaining that her time at the College made her more outgoing and helped her learn to work with colleagues.

Regardless of whether Pinney is the teacher or the student, her ambition and spirit are inspiring to her students, her classmates, and her peers.  We are lucky that her next destination is bringing her so close to home.