December 21, 2016
After a week of torture, I was transferred to what I call the slow learner course for studying Hangul. I later found out teachers are not allowed to use any English to teach even if they are fluent. There were far more confusing and often difficult rules to comprehend in South Korea. Like why couldn’t I leave class ten minutes early after I finished my midterm exam? Literally, my teacher would not let me leave, she stood in front of the door and told me that I’m in Korea and that I should follow the Korean rules, but that would come later.
I started the class with three boys who were around nineteen years old who came from Saudi Arabia. Officially all of the people who had darker skin were lumped into one classroom. I would try my best at demonstrating patience and cultural understanding. A trait I’m working on obtaining as I get older. I’m still a work in progress and I don’t know if it’s something that I will ever conquer.
My other classmates were all boys from China except for one other older male who was my same age. He was from Malaysia and he spoke a little bit of English and Chinese. He became my beacon of light. I was able to speak to him during our ten-minute breaks, and he became my connection to the Chinese students in the class. He would translate their jokes and just by him talking to me they became less afraid to say hello.
To explain further about my class filled with all boys and why we were the special education class you need to be a little familiar with the Korean education system. I quickly realized that everyone in my class was all new to learning the Korean language and none of us liked to study after class. Korean teachers expect for you to attend class every day, our class was for four hours a day, five days a week and then study for at least another three hours after class practicing grammar and pronunciation.
Later, I could only blame why I would have to repeat the same course was because of my poor time management skills. My problems began after I found a website that provided subtitles in English for popular Korean dramas. This was both a blessing and a curse. I had TV shows to watch on my computer; thank goodness for free wi-fi, but I could also spend a whole day watching Kdramas.
Eventually, our little class found a harmonious rhythm, four different native languages being spoken with a communal goal of trying to learn Hangul. Who knew the best thing that could have ever happened was being moved into another class.
If you want to continue reading about my life in Seoul, South Korea check out the next post in my travel diary.