KOREAN STUDY EXPERIENCE SUMMARY
June 16th, 2012
After my week long stint of being a Korean student, I can say that I now understand why students sleep in class so much, why students are often sick, why students simply don’t care occasionally, and why it seems that students really enjoy the little things.
After being at school for 15 hours a day for a week, reflecting back I can only say that I’ve enjoyed my time. That may sound insane to some people, or even absurd, but it’s entirely true. Consider that life is composed of decisions, and choices and every single one compounded makes up the entirety of our life. These kids don’t have a choice in this matter though, it’s study, or be disciplined. However I have the ability to make a decision to stay or not to and making the choice to stay at my school all week has been one of the best things I’ve done while in Korea.
It’s allowed me a fresh perspective, some new insight, and give me greater opportunities to make closer bonds with my students. Studying with students, and building connections with them, being silly, uniting in our lethargic states of being, and just being there has made me really appreciate the little things.
When you’re a Korean student, you’re busy, really busy, and that’s just how it is… Maybe it sucks, but the spirits of the students are amazing. I ask many of them, if they’re tired and they say yes, but that it’s okay. They realize it’s a place that they’re stuck. They can’t get out and they feel that they’re trapped, but just because they’re trapped doesn’t mean they’re not going to derive the most enjoyment out of the time that they’re there. Even during the 10 minute breaks between classes, they’re so utterly full of life: Playing badminton, talking in the halls, playing tricks on each other, singing, dancing, trying to sneak out of school, and just being kids, and they do this all while being in school 5 days a week for 14 to 15 hours a day.
It’s a testament to these kids. They’re intense, they’re hardcore, and when they transition to 3rd grade they’re brutally dedicated…. Have you ever wondered how Koreans are able to be some of the most skillful video game players you’ve ever faced, the most insane sleep deprived masters of work, and then how they have the ability to drink at night until 3am and then go to work the next day. These students are indoctrinated early into a lifestyle that promotes intense study, vigorous dedication and absolute insanity to achieve ones academic and future dreams. The abilities I mentioned above are simply Koreans using what they’re been trained for their entire lives and are examples that bleed over into other skill sets.
This week I’ve read 3 books, learned Korean vocabulary and grammar, reviewed biology, and studied English. However, the things I’ve done that really matter aren’t seen in these accomplishments. The things like: Sitting in study time next to kids for 4 hours, helping students with English speaking, helping students apply to English camp, smiling at every student I see, joking with students that if study time were a person I’d marry it, and most importantly caring about these kids.
Life is so damn short, and we don’t always get to do what we want, but in between all of the things that we’re required to do, and must do we have those moments of spare time, those moments to sit back and enjoy… and when you’re a Korean student, I think you really appreciate those spare moments because they’re few and far between… It allows you to appreciate the 10 minute break in a 3 hour study block. You run to grab ice cream, you talk with your friend, you wash your face and throw the baseball around, and in those 10 minutes, you cherish every second, because they’re yours.
I’d like to end on the last hour of my Friday study time. It was 10:10 and I had just left the 교무실 after a teacher had given me a drink for my health! I walked into the nearest classroom and sat down ready to study. The students said hi and just assumed I was walking around until I sat down and started to pull out my notebooks to study. They then make confused noises followed by respect. I smiled and said in a slightly authoritative voice “집중해요” “Concentrate.” They all smiled and started to work, but some 1st graders who had just finished study time were outside being extremely loud. They were just being 1st graders. They don’t understand the stress, greater sleep deprivation, parents, and hopes that ride on this study time, and to be fair in my time in Korea I still don’t believe I can fully understand it. This bothered me and I went up to the window informing them to be quiet speaking in authoritative Korean. The 3rd graders in class all laughed and enjoyed every second and clapped upon me finishing my 10 second rant. It was quiet now for the next 45 minutes. We all stayed at our desks studying.
The student sitting next to me was a friendly kid from last year. He was cheerful and outgoing, not fantastic at English but I could tell he was quickly improving, and really trying. It made me happy. During the study time he was studying English and I was studying Korean. He smiled and placed a hand on my shoulder, I smiled and patted him on the back. After study time had finished he looked at me and told me to have a great weekend. He had this shimmer in his eye, it was this look of respect, this mutual understanding, and he had faith. Even if it was my wishful thinking, I think I could feel his emotions speaking to me, and this is what they said….
"Thank you teacher, thanks for sitting by me and being here, I hate this but knowing that you’re here I feel better, I feel that you care, I feel that you want to learn Korean, and I know that I matter to you."