Intrepid Girl Reporter

Thursday, 3/6: I just want some trail mix
March 6, 2008, 2:38 pm
Filed under: host mom, host sister, life on Jeju, life progress, pipe dreams, the future, U S of A

The first thing I should establish here is that I’m not going to grad school next year.

To be fair, Columbia’s rejection letter was really nice – they think my academic credentials are stellar, they encourage less than 5% of their applicants to reapply but they really want to see me again, I just need to get some more work experience, blah blah blah. And as Miguk Oma says, they certainly didn’t have to write all of that.

I found all this out yesterday morning, before I had my laptop back, i.e. sitting in the freezing living room squinting at the stupid host family computer. I was not initially fazed. I found out on Tuesday that I got an interview for the AIF fellowship, which is promising. And I’m reasonably sure that if I apply again, I not only have a good chance of getting in, but I might actually get some money to fund my poor educational dreams.

Subconsciously, however, this information started to stress me out. Basically, yesterday just sort of spun out into this sort of nunchi nightmare. Nunchi, for those of you who are not schooled in Korean culture, is the ability to sort of suss out a situation, to avoid making the sort of social miscues that Korean society abhors. I guess the news that my future is a lot less certain than I was hoping sort of dulled my nunchi, because I kept upsetting the kibun everywhere I went, including but not limited to: overextending myself at the inconvenience of other people, accidentally making Omma take me and some other teacher she knew to a really expensive eel restaurant near the Jeju Student Culture Center, accidentally sitting in the wrong seat on the bus, etc. I think the low point of my day was when I went to both E AND Lotte Marts to find some trail mix and I just couldn’t find any and I almost started crying in the store. I knew perfectly well that Korean stores do sell trail mix, but apparently none of those stores are in SinJeju, so I ended up having to buy separate trail mix components, which, for the record, are really expensive.

Despite my own discomfort, however, I want to take note of a recent source of pride: Host Sister has refused to go to hagwon anymore. Not even joking. I can’t even come up with an analogy that will make the significance of this apparent to my American readers – all I can say is that Korean students go to hagwon. They just do. To give you an idea of why, here is the Korean life plan:

  1. To be happy, you need to have lived a good life.
  2. To live a good life, you must be successful.
  3. To be successful, you should probably have gone to a good university, preferably a SKY (Seoul, Korea, or Yonsei) school.
  4. To get into a good university, you have to have done well on the admissions tests.
  5. To do well on admissions tests, you should have gone to a good high school.
  6. To get into a good high school, you have to have done well on the high school admissions tests.
  7. To do well on the high school admissions tests, you need to study all the time.
  8. To study all the time, you need to go to hagwon.

I partially credit this decision to her time in America and the fact that she saw that her life as a ninth grader does not have to be perpetually miserable. She told Host Mom that she can study just fine on her own, which is true, since she has been known to skip major family holidays in favor of studying. “Every day,” she told me, “I think about hagwon, do I go or not go. Every day.” Also in America: she got really good at SkipBo. But I played her yesterday and I still won.

Anyway, moments like this sweet SkipBo victory remind me not to feel too sorry for myself, even though maybe I will spend another whole year abroad and if I don’t who knows if I’ll get a good enough job to get me into grad school? Maybe I should see if they have hagwons in America.


1 Comment so far
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its called sylvan learning center.

Comment by candie

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