Seeing his chance and taking it

First Person

October 08, 2006|By Henry Allen Hurst | Henry Allen Hurst,[SPECIAL TO THE SUN]

Two years ago, when I graduated from Coppin State University with a degree in English, I was invited to a staff meeting at a local black newspaper where I heard stories about the day-to-day experiences of the journalists there.

It was then that I knew that a career in journalism was a way to satisfy my curiosity about the world. Gradually, my urge to know evolved into an urge to share information.

I've written articles that chronicled the good and the bad of everyday life in an urban setting.

And, if not for the world of journalism, I may have never gotten the opportunity to sit down eye-to-eye with black intellectuals, celebrities, athletes, policy-makers and even more important, like myself, the average citizen of Baltimore.

My time as a staff reporter for the Baltimore Afro American newspaper took me to the Newark, N.J., doorstep of famed poet and political activist Amiri Baraka. I had the honor of speaking with Baraka for hours concerning his controversial poem about Sept. 11 that cost him his poet-laureate status and the suspicious death of his daughter that followed.

I was able to talk with actor Jamie Foxx in a face-to-face interview [my first assignment] about enduring racism as a child in his hometown of Terrell, Texas.

I even had the opportunity to interview Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis and former wide receiver Deion Sanders before they talked to an audience of black men at Empowerment Temple in Northwest Baltimore.

And, there were times when I questioned local politicians about unpopular decisions.

It was also troublesome to find myself writing the obituaries of slain childhood friends.

It's been a rewarding career so far. I've won a couple of journalism awards through the local chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists, and I know that my work has made a difference.

But even with all that I have done, I have always felt that I needed more.

After months of job searching and delving into other writing opportunities, I found a career that will give me a global perspective on not only life, but also on my career in journalism.

I'm going to teach English at private schools in Seoul and Suwon, South Korea. The assignments are expected to last at least a year.

After applying through an advertisement, I was recruited by Asian Marketing Inc., a firm that places English-speaking candidates in teaching positions in Asian schools.

What attracted me to the opportunity was the allure of an odyssey -- traveling to another land about which I know nothing.

I've done some research, though. In a recent United Nations report, South Korea was cited for having one of the most efficient public school systems in the world.

And the country has cities as modern as any American city.

I have some concerns such as flying abroad in today's political climate, but I'm not concerned about the language barrier (even though I don't speak Korean).

I will have a teacher's aide who will act as an interpreter and guide. However, school directors tell me that whether I want to or not, I will learn the language by simply being immersed in the culture.

I'll have a maximum of 10 to 12 kids in my class. And, they are not allowed to speak Korean in class.

Most of my friends and family have been supportive of my decision to teach abroad.

It was my loving mother who objected. I can't repeat what she said, but I will say that I expected her response, especially since none of her children has ever left American soil.

She's worried about the tension between the United States and North Korea, and the possibility of South Korea, a U.S. ally, getting caught in the crossfire.

No matter how I try to spin it, my mother's right. The world is a dangerous place.

But the only experiences I have to draw upon are from my hometown of 23 years.

Now I'm off to another country for other life experiences. I would like to write for a South Korean paper. I might apply for a job as a reporter there as well.

Henry Hurst, 23, took off for South Korea Aug. 25. UniSun editor Karlayne Parker spoke to him briefly. He's now living in Seoul, a few blocks from the school where he's been assigned to teach fourth and fifth grade.

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