Focus On…Yonsei

March 6th, 2022

How do you get up in the morning? Do you snooze multiple alarms? Or are you awake with the sound of the first alarm bell? Somehow, I fooled myself into believing I’d have my dorm room to myself. I arrived home one day to a bed across from me being made. My heart sank. The first thing I thought about was that I would have to be extremely quiet. Now, I don’t believe myself to be the loudest human being to walk the Earth but, hey, I do enjoy singing Listen To Your Heart on blast from time to time. My roommate is a chill dude, but I would be lying If I said I didn’t want the room back to myself. I haven’t had to share such an intimate space since my freshman year in college and before that I was sharing with my brother. The Syracuse dorm I inhabited was a split double, which meant immediately upon entry there was a wall that divided the room into two separate spaces.However, at Yonsei there’s no wall dividing the space whatsoever. Honestly, did I expect everything to go how I wanted?Perhaps. Yes, a part of me believed in that potential reality. But, I fully believe every part of my experience is unfolding as I need it to.

Cohabitating with someone else will allow me to examine what may be habits of mine that need some work. It will also give me a chance to observe another culture up close. Classes started and that’s a whole other battle in itself. Yonsei has begun to hold some in person classes for the first time since the pandemic began. Some classes are fully in person, while some offer a hybrid model and then entirely online options. I happen to have a mix of all these methods this semester. March 3rd, I woke up bright and early for my 9am. I was pumped, my identity as a “tourist in Korea” was about to shift to “tourist studying in Korea”. My first two classes focused on Modern Korean History and Traditional Korean Society. After these classes finished I had a lunch break headed to the “Yonsei Coop” for lunch at Jamba Juice. Got to stay healthy and hydrated, right? Everytime, I have to order my food I get nervous that for some reason I’ll butcher saying my order. I prepare my best Korean, only for the server to speak English. Hey, I go into every situation assuming that English isn’t the dominant language spoken. However, the one place I didn’t apply that logic was the classroom. As an exchange student, there are X’s and Os that dictate what exactly is open to us. O meaning open to exchange students and X being not available. I enrolled in an International Relations in East Asia course and joined the zoom call only to hear the Professor speaking Korean. I waited about 10 minutes to see if maybe once he started teaching the course he’d shift to English. 15 minutes passed and I left the zoom. That course was fully taught in Korean. Immediately, I knew I’d have to look for another course to fill the void. You’d think, okay that has to be an accident that happens at least once. Well, it happened with the class right after that. Again, I was met with a course being taught in Korean.

It’s overwhelming and fascinating to briefly sit in a class and watch as a professor begins their course in a language you don’t understand. As a foreign student, I’m grateful that there are courses taught in English that also match my areas of study. I’ve only scratched the surface into what my academic life will look like here, but I’m sure I’ll learn a ton of stuff inside and outside the classroom. I’m the type of guy who uses the energy of occurrences around him to dictate how I’ll respond. The only thing I have control over is myself and my actions.If I have to live with a roommate I guess I’ll have to adapt. If I am enrolled in a Korean class by accident, then the search for an English-taught class begins. Spring semester, let’s do this. Now, let me go finish that reading for class.

Originally published at https://www.davidbarbierjr.com on March 6, 2022.

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