Motivated Through Experience



            It is our independent travel week and I am currently sitting in a café in Busan, South Korea catching up on email. A lot of the other students are exploring all across China with their time, but I decided to come here to visit an old friend from high school. If it wasn’t for Jiyun, I would be exploring China, too. But I wanted to share a little of our friendship and reflect on what I’ve learned from it.


            Jiyun and I met in Algebra 2 class when we were both 16. At the time, Jiyun had come to study in Indiana without having any classroom English. Ha. I remember thinking that he was crazy, but also very interesting. His bravery attracted me. He sat one seat to my left and, during class one day, we started speaking the minimal amount we could. Mrs. Burton told us to quiet down, but from that point I knew this was the start to what would be a lifelong friendship. We began to work on homework together in study halls and he eventually started coming over to my house on the weekends and hanging out with my friends and I. Mrs. Burton ended up recommending me for student of the month for “helping” Jiyun, but in truth he was a great math student. We just used my help as an excuse to continue talking in class.  


            Jiyun left after a semester and I promised him that if I ever got the chance to visit in Korea, I would. And the time has come, so it was a pretty easy decision to hop on a 2 hour flight from Shanghai to Busan. 6 years later, besides deeper voices and facial hair, nothing has changed and I’ve learned a lot from this friendship. Above all, I think that it is not so much about the language skills you have, but more about the perspective you have, which I would argue has a lot to do with love and mutual understanding. Being uncomfortable is inevitable when going to different countries, especially places like China or Korea. If you come into these situations knowing that it is going to be different and that you are there to learn, you’ll prime yourself to be more appreciative rather than critical and this experience, overall, will be more beneficial and fulfilling to you. If this is one of your main motivations to learn any language, then the experiences will inspire you even more in your language classes and push you to take your love and understanding of a culture to the next level.

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