My Summer Attending Ewha University via a KI Tuition Waiver-Summer 2011
Ewha Summer Tuition Waiver
On the second day of my time in the Ewha International Summer College, my Korean language teacher asked my friend in the class and me how many years we had known each other. She was shocked to find that we were already finishing each other’s sentences and sharing inside jokes even though we had only met three days earlier at the orientation meeting for the program. In fact, it was that instant camaraderie with people from all over the world who were equally attracted to the culture values, the language, and the people that characterized the Ewha International Summer College experience. My closest friends that I met were from Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, France, and Norway, but through the program, we were brought together to push ourselves harder than ever and share experiences we would’ve never imagined.
My interest in Korea and Korean culture began when a friend of mine introduced me to Korean drama the summer before my senior year. I’d watch Boys Over Flowers (twice), My Girl, and Full House over the course of a single week when I decided that I had to learn the language of the country whose people and culture I had become so addicted to. So over the course of my last year at Harvard, I struggled to study basic Korean with the help of my ever so patient professors and encouragement of Korean-speaking friends. I learned quite a bit very quickly, but I felt that neither the confidence nor the fluency were there. However, standing in Incheon Airport alone and trying to catch a limousine bus into Seoul, suddenly everything that I had learned in the classroom came together. I felt myself sorting through my mental catalog of the Korean B textbook. The chapter on airports, then directions, then phone conversations, then restaurants-- I was absolutely blown away by how practical my Korean had become over the course of just two semesters. When I took the language placement exam for the Korean class I was taking at Ewha, exactly a year after I’d watched my first drama, I ended up placing into a class with students who had taken many more years of the language or were heritage speakers, and I was once again scared to death.
However, the Ewha Korean program pushed me to work harder and to seek help much more often than I ever had in the past. The class was taught completely in Korean, the textbook was entirely in Korean, and there was an assumption of vocabulary and grammar knowledge that I simply didn’t have. It was the overwhelming at first, but being in the Ewha Graduate School Dormitory, I was able to make friends with Ewha students who worked with me for hours sometimes just to help me to catch up with the material. The Korean textbook required studying idioms and vocabulary steeped in cultural context, and the Ewha students’ support was integral to understanding and remembering the concepts taught in the course.
Moreover, the students I worked with in Korean class became both my friends and teachers. Our teacher made a point of bringing the diversity of our backgrounds into classroom discussion, pointing out the differences between our countries’ customs. And as each of us began to learn about Korea through our experiences outside of the classroom, we brought our stories of the bathhouses, traditional hanoks, presumptive ahjummas, and delicious eateries we encountered to the classroom to share with each other. When we heard tips on places celebrities might be or where famous drama scenes were filmed, we would go on our own trips together to see them. It was through one of my classmates that I was invited to go to a private concert for Rain, the singer who had also starred in one of my favorite dramas. Our collective experiences made it possible to understand and experience so much more of the country even in a short period of time.
My experience living in Ewha University this summer and learning Korean with others just as passionate about the language as I am was a unique and unforgettable way to close my time at Harvard. I look forward to continuing to grow upon my language skills in the future and utilizing my new understanding of the Korea’s history, culture, and economy in my career path that follows.
Jade Clark, '11