So it’s come to my attention that I just might have a little bit of an unhealthy obsession with words that I don’t understand. I have two examples for you. The first is from my now soon-to-be dropped class. I had signed up to take structural planning in addition to the architectural engineering because I thought they would make a nice pair. Here’s how it went:
Professor: Makes class introduction and calls attendance entirely in Korean. Has to call my name twice, because I didn’t recognize it in Korean.
Professor (on finding out I’m a foreigner): This is not English class.
Me: I know (smile smile)
Professor: Why you here?
Me: It seemed interesting.
Professor: (laughing) I don’t think so.
Professor: There will be a lot of calculations.
Me: Well, math in Korea is the same as math in America.
(continues to discuss syllabus, 100% in Korean)
(me, smiling and nodding along)
Professor (calls me over to his podium, speaks in halting English): This is not the class for your major.
Me: That’s okay.
Professor: This will not help your career.
Me: It will increase my general knowledge.
Professor: ummmm….this class is for 4th year, almost-graduated students in architectural engineering. There are many pre-requisites. Why are you in the architectural engineering department anyway? Who sent you?
Me: Well, like I said earlier, I’m a foreign-language major back home, a business major here, and I didn’t enough business classes, so I chose this one. Ahh, so there are prereqs? Oh, okay.
Professor: Why architectural engineering?
Me: (lamely attempts to express something about civil engineering and buildings)
Professor: Civil engineering is in a different department.
Me: I’m interested. Where should I go?
Professor: (laughs nervously, looks around)
Me: What class should I take?
Professor: I don’t know. A class for first years?
Me: Okay, who’s the department head?
Professor: Uhhh….(asks lingering student, who procures a name and a class recommendation for me)
Professor: This one! Maybe you could take this one! It maybe isn’t English though.
Me: Thanks. You know, I think I’m just gonna head back to the international office and drop this class.
Professor: (facial expression of incredible relief) Yes! Good!
Me: Thank you very much.
Professor: Yes, okay.
I find this episode kind of hilarious. A little sad, but still, really funny. What I find even more entertaining is that even after this experience, I continue to agree to attend lectures that I won’t understand. Today I went to check out the church, and it was pretty much deja-vu. I went to the designated pick-up spot for new students, and explained in halting Korean who had invited me, and then one of the people there said to me (in English) “She invited you to the Korean service. If you want, you can go to English service.”
Me: It’s okay. I’m in Korea, I should learn more Korean.
Her: It will be very difficult for you, the words…
Me: That’s okay. (smile smile)
Even though you know what happened, I’m going to tell you because I think it’s hilarious.
Pastor: starts off with a reference to Doraemon.
Me: smiling, because I understood Doraemon
Pastor: continues talking and waving his hands and getting agitated
Pastor: tells a joke or makes a reference to something funny, audience laughs.
Me: chuckling because everyone else is doing it.
Pastor: calms down and continues speech.
Pastor: starts getting agitated again and crescendos up to literally shout at us in Korean, THE PROBLEM IS…….
Me: nodding, but no idea what the problem is.
Pastor: keeps going at fever pitch, tells another joke
Me: laugh because it’s the socially acceptable thing to do
Pastor: calms down for about five minutes. Tells another joke. Audience laughs.
Me: laugh because I can’t understand a single thing and this is starting to strike me as just absolutely funny.
Me: starting to think this is going to be the end
Pastor: gets going again
Pastor:….WHAT KIND OF…..WHAT KIND OF…..WHAT KIND OF….
Me: completely lost.
Pastor: speaks for about ten more minutes and then concludes.
They showed all the names of the new first time visitors on the screen in the sanctuary, and then asked us to stand up, then sang a welcoming song for us and gave us bags of candy. Then they ushered all of us greenhorns into a hall, where we broke into small groups and introduced ourselves and waited for the senior pastor to come and educate us on Christianity 101. At one point, the pastor asked everyone to close their eyes, but of course I didn’t understand him, and I just kept looking at him and wondering why he was just staring at me. Then someone at my table told me in English what was going on. Then, at the end of this “mini lecture”, we were ushered into yet another small group room where something else was introduced. It was probably about church, but really, I have no idea.
******************************************************************************************Because it sounded interesting. Because it would be a good experience. Because it was foreign. It seems like these are my reasons for intentionally jumping into events and activities that normally end up as funny experience stories, but in the moment become overwhelming. It’s like I’m addicted to being overwhelmed and these are my excuses to continue biting off more than I can chew. Interesting–almost everything is interesting at some level. (Almost.) All experience is good. And I don’t need to mention my love for everything foreign. So I enroll in a full load of classes that end up being difficult and time consuming, as well as sign up for too many extra-curricular activities, in addition to checking out too many books from the library that I don’t finish reading because they’re printed in a language that I can read only very slowly, or the subject material becomes too deep for me to really understand. After these most recent two experiences, I’m beginning to ask why do I have this addiction? It does get annoying sometimes.
What I should start doing is categorizing all the “foreign experience opportunities” things that come my way into, “will be useful in career”, “will be useful socially”, “will be useful academically”, and maybe one for just “interesting”.
The problem is, what kind of interesting?