As I counted down the days of when I was going to leave Korea, something in me was going to miss all the Korean students and the great campus of Korea University. As a Hmong-American blending in with nothing but Korean students, it wasn’t long till I was able to learn adjust, learn, and adapt to their ways. By ways, I mean their school ethics, their social life, and even their personal life.
On my first day of class, I wore a t-shirt, shorts, socks and sandals. I was nothing like them. I wasn’t even comparable. Majority of the students were dressed up. The women and men were all fashionable. Dress pants, suits, and ties were all a part of their cultural norm. I definitely wasn’t used to it. That isn’t to say they all just wore dress pants, suits, and ties. They were on top of their game and it made me appreciate that of their culture. To get a stronger understanding on the idea of being fashionable in Korea, check out Eat Your Kimchi’s video on Do Foreigners Have To Be Fashionable In Korea?
Dressing up nice was a plus, but could you imagine if you look good too? The odds would forever be in your favor. When my Korean partner presented his self-analysis on his life, he said he wanted to commit suicide because he was ugly, he thought about getting plastic surgery, and that at some point in his life he hated himself. He was a very honest and modest man. He would fix my coat for me when it wasn’t on right. In fact, many and all of the Korean students there showed great hospitality. It’s also to take note that South Korea has the highest suicide rate in the world. If this doesn’t strike anyone as much, it did to me. Looking good was just the thing and if you didn’t have it, then you were out of luck. It made me ponder about their lives growing up. It made me interested in each and every one of their lives, not that I was being nosy. I just wanted to be educated.
I knew that it was difficult to get into the SKY universities, but what I didn’t know was that each and every student worked their butts off in high school. Whenever I spoke to students, all they told me was “I went to school at 6 am till 6 pm and then studied till 1.” Most of them didn’t have a social life. All they did was go to school, study, and prep themselves to take the 수능 (Su-neung) which is equivalent to the ACT and SAT. This just signifies how important it is for them to get into the SKY universities. Education is the key in Korea and to many of these students, it’s more than just papers and books; it’s the key to their future.