Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The First Day

...does anyone else besides me sometimes feel as nervous as the students look? In some cases, I'm the first real, live foreigner they've ever been in contact with, believe it or not. And I don't speak Korean, which is a completely new experience for most of the students. And the syllabus, in English probably looks as intimidating to my students as a Korean medical form or credit card application looks to me. So I can sympathize of course with their nervousness.

And I'm not without my own. Walking into a classroom with 20 or 25 pairs of Korean eyes upon you is an intimidating experience in this culture where appearance at times seems like everything. Is my hair in place? My fly open? My nose is running but I can't blow it in front of everyone. And then I say hello and get nervous twitters back in response. So I plunge on, with the spiel of who I am and what we're going to be doing this semester.

By the end, I can tell they are not so scared or in awe of me, but maybe they see that I'm just a chilled out, regular sort of person who happens to not be Korean. And I happen to be their teacher for the next 16 weeks. I wonder at times if my job matters, not so much in terms of people actually learning English (although this is important in a global world!), but in terms of showing a whole generation of Koreans that foreigners are not altogether foreign. That people are people and we are alike in a lot of ways and we can also appreciate our differences without looking down on each other. Kind of like a cultural ambassador for all things Western to this world that is at time stifling it its all things Eastern. Open a few minds to the bigger world and broader possibilities of a life outside Samsung or Kia or even Korea.

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