Start of the new semester, opening of 2015! New classes, new schedule, new professors and their teaching styles, classmates, books, events – all for the first time, fresh and exciting, yet at the same time, accompanying a drop of anxiety. Saying hello to all these new things students would have encountered during their first week of school, I could say that it is more or less essentially the same as dipping your feet into the pool before getting completely wet. As if from air into water, the changes in the environment give you a little tremble, but once you get used to it, you soon become the fish in the water. Not only the changes in the environment though, I believe the same applies to the intricacy of human relationships.
Meeting new people, saying hi to the person who is sitting next to you in class, introducing yourself to the professor, all requires the courage of jumping into an area of unknown. What kind of a person would he/she be? Would he/she be in possession of a character which is similar / different to mine? Would we be good friends? All such thoughts arise before the actual ‘hello’, the first eye-contact, getting the first impression on each other followed by a couple of light or short conversation necessary to explore deeper into who he/she is. As more and more information and interchange of feelings compile, the two people gets closer faster and faster, like in geometric progression.
We all know this, yet still it is the ‘actual start’ that most intimidates us. The fear of being rejected, of screwing up make us hesitate in putting the first step. I guess such anticipation of future leads us to achieving nothing. If you think that it is a right decision, jump in without hesitation. Soon you’ll be finding yourself swimming like a fish in a new world, hopefully not so much different from the world you have aspired for.
I think that is how my first week in school passed. So many things had happened, and I was enjoying every moment of my time more than I had expected or rather, anticipated. Spending time with friends definitely helped a lot. I had busy time during the day, changing classes, adding/dropping classes, reordering my schedule, introducing myself to the class, doing assignments and readings that already existed for the first class (unfortunately). What was more, the class atmosphere between US and South Korea was so much different, even though I had already expected that there would be differences, it was quite hard to adjust to the US class atmosphere at first. The biggest difference was the class participation. US students (at least students in my class – usually Political Science or International Affairs) tend to be active in trying to express their own opinions and engage in a debate during class. They don’t seem to be in much fear of not getting the right answer (although in many cases ‘right’ answers don’t exist). Professors and students communicate freely. US college classes seem to be very lively, due to all these factors.
Korean college class atmosphere tend to be on the opposite end of the spectrum as that of US. Even though students may have their own opinions shaped, the majority of the students are usually quite careful and reluctant in trying to express their opinions out in front of the whole class. In many classes students are eager in trying to take note of what the professor said, accelerating the lecture to be more leaned toward professor-only-lecturing style. Having spent years in such class environment, US class styles first came as a little shock to me. So for the first few days I usually observed how other students participate in the class, giving out their opinions. By the end of the week, I took some courage to present my opinion for the first time. It was not as hard as I had expected, so after my first time, it was much easier for me to participate in the class by giving out opinions a couple times more.
After the classes, I spent time with my fellow Asian friends, usually by cooking together for dinner and sharing the food. We visited the H-mart, which is the Korean market (selling not only Korean but other Asian groceries too) near the DC area. Cooking together and sharing food is not only fun, yet is a great opportunity to experience other cultures other than one’s own. DC life as an exchange student needn’t be solely about experiencing US. With so many fellow exchange students around, getting to know cultures other than US is always close to access, and experiencing, sharing different cultures are usually always intriguing!