Hanna Lee studied at the University of Arkansas for one semester as a visiting student during the Fall 2011. She recently completed her Bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature and also received a teacher certificate for English in February 2013 from the Sogang University, Korea. During this important time of her life to make a transition from college to the professional field, she is reflecting on her experiences during and after the UofA.
Here’s her story:
Upon coming back to Korea, my heart was full of excitement and confidence and I could not wait to start my new semester in my own university. I was completely ready to have a fresh restart at my school and redesign my future. While studying at the UofA, I learned more than just a language. I became more open-minded, not afraid of failing, and more confident in what I wanted to accomplish. All happened thanks to sharing thoughts and cultures with so many friends from all over the world at the UofA. All of those experiences encouraged me to enjoy classes in English at Sogang University and motivated me to be successful in the teaching practicum for a month.
However, happy moments did not last forever as part of re-entry culture shock process. Becoming an English teacher in Korea is honorable, of course, but it is also burdensome. Not only you have to be fluent in English, but you’re also expected to be excellent so that your students get good score on so many different kinds of examinations. In fact, it was indeed stressful to learn English as a school subject when I was in high school. There was almost no chances to use English in real communicative situations. As I was working on my teaching certificate, I started to wonder if I could enjoy teaching English as a subject, not as a lively language or communication tool.
With those worries in mind, I took a teacher’s eligibility test. And I failed. Looking back, this event might have been the biggest failure in my life. However, I did not give up and I decided to use this experience as a stepping stone toward my future.
I decided to be more realistic and more idealistic at the same time: First, I admitted the fact that teaching English in Korea could be a different experience. At this point, it is important for Korean students to do well in tests and English is a school subject. However, I also promised myself to encourage my students to learn about another aspect of this amazing language: The power of English to connect people from all over the world. In this globalized society, it is one of the best communication tools you can use to absorb new cultures and share your own culture with many other people. I still wonder how I could have been able to make friends with the people from Ukraine, Burma, Ghana, and other countries at the UofA if not for English. With my own experiences, my hope is that my students in the future will also be able to use English to experience new world when they go on a trip, read magazines, and play online games with foreign people, not only for the exams!
To make my dream come true, I will still need to do my best to pass the teachers eligibility test at the end of this year. Currently, I am studying for the test and also teaching at middle school as a part-time instructor. My goal is to study TESOL or educational psychology in a graduate school to gain more expertise in the field in 10 years. Ultimately, I would like to be a teacher who can truly inspire students and can strongly encourage students to live hopeful and happy lives with this wonderful communication tool we have, English.
For about a year since I left U of A, I went through many things both encouraging and challenging. But as you know, life is all about up-and-downs! Moreover, you can spurt toward the better future after experiencing failures. Every moment I experienced at UofA taught me various lessons and provided me wonderful friends, unforgettable memories and new challenges. You may even be able to find your future goal at the UofA. My dear friends on the Visiting Student Program, please never let go off your best moment in your life. Enjoy every single day as much as possible. Also, please remember what you have learned and what your heart has felt even after you go back to your home countries!
Wishing you all the best.