Brittany Scardigno, an alum of Brookdale Community College, embarked on an inspiring journey of growth and discovery in Korea through a prestigious Fulbright teaching grant. Transitioning from her studies as a business administration major at Brookdale to her impactful role in Korean classrooms, Brittany’s story highlights the influence of education and the extensive reach of cross-cultural exchange.

Brittany’s academic journey began at Brookdale Community College, where she initially pursued business administration with dreams of one day owning her own hair salon. However, her path took a pivotal turn when she discovered a passion for literature and English, fueled by the mentorship of English professors like James Cody.

“I loved my time at Brookdale. I thought it was so much fun and enriching, with highly qualified teachers who often teach at other colleges and universities. The diversity of students, spanning various ages and life experiences, made each class fascinating. Now, as a teacher myself, I deeply appreciate the diverse environment at Brookdale, a feature not easily found elsewhere.”

Continuing her education at Georgian Court University, thanks to a seamless transfer partnership with Brookdale, Brittany delved deeper into English studies, setting her sights on becoming an English professor.

“I wanted to be an English professor because I think this is the coolest job in the world.”

Her journey led her to Monmouth University, where she pursued a master’s degree in English studies, with a particular focus on transnational Asian literature. At Monmouth University, she was presented with the opportunity to apply for a Fulbright teaching grant in Korea.

“I was interested in Korea because firstly, my best friends immigrated from Korea, and I grew up with them. I always admired their mothers’ journey of starting from having nothing in a new country, learning a new language and raising children,” she explained. “And secondly, during an Asian literature class at Georgian Court, I read some of the greatest books I’ve ever read in my life. A lot of them were memoirs by Chinese and Japanese American authors. The mix of nonfiction and fiction and the distortion of memory intrigued me, drawing me to Asian literature.”

Arriving in Korea in January of 2023, Brittany began a transformative experience as a high school teacher, immersing herself in the vibrant culture and educational landscape of the country as she navigated the intricacies of teaching in a new country.

Classroom in KoreaTeaching in Korea felt quite different for Brittany compared to her experience in the United States. She noticed a big gap in educational beliefs. In Korea, the focus of English classes was more on memorization and giving the right answers grammatically. This was unlike the approach to composition pedagogy Brittany had learned in the States, which aimed at encouraging students to think critically and explore diverse viewpoints.Korean classroom of students

Brittany noted significant cultural differences in student behavior and engagement. The physical affection and openness among students and teachers initially surprised her, given the more formal boundaries typical in American schools. Additionally, addressing and educating students about LGBTQ+ terms and sensitivity showed her some cultural and teaching differences that needed careful handling to make sure everyone felt included and respected in class.

The sheer number of students Brittany taught weekly—600 across 20 classes—underscored the intensity of her workload and the scale of her impact. Moreover, the rigorous schedule of Korean students, who often study from morning till late at night, emphasizes the high-pressure environment they navigate, unlike the more balanced school-life situation often encouraged in the U.S.

While there, Brittany became involved in the Infusion literary journal through the Fulbright program. Serving as a staff editor, she embraced the opportunity to curate a collection of diverse experiences shared by Fulbright participants, spanning photography, poetry, narratives, and blog posts. The magazine, available both digitally and in print, is accessible to all, reflecting Brittany’s commitment to accessible education. The readership extends to past, current, and potential Fulbright scholars, and individuals interested in Korean culture and linguistics. Through the rigorous editing process, Brittany ensured that the magazine displayed a wide range of perspectives and experiences.Brittany Scardgno looking at the mountains of Korea

Alum Brittany Scardigno and her host sister.Discussing the highlights of her Korean adventure, Brittany emphasized the deep connections she formed with her host family.

“What truly stands out to me are the mountains, my students, and the incredible bond I share with my host family. Living in their building, I occupied a cozy one-room apartment while they resided on the top floor. Our shared dinners are cherished memories, that fostered a deep connection.”

Brittany elaborated on the bonds she forged with her host family members.

“Despite language barriers, particularly with my host parents and brother who weren’t fluent in English, we found ways to communicate. Even simple conversations became meaningful as we navigated through translation apps, enhancing our shared experiences and understanding. I also developed a close relationship with their 24-year-old daughter, with whom I went on many adventures.”

Brittany missed her family and is happy to be back in the United States. Her journey from Brookdale to Korea stands as a powerful reminder of the opportunities that education can open. Her passion for teaching, dedication to her students, and willingness to embrace new cultures exemplify the best of what Fulbright scholars can achieve. Brittany Scardigno’s story is not just one of personal achievement but also a celebration of the bridges built through education, understanding, and shared experiences across borders.