Friday, July 8, 2011
My personal statement instructions are below:
The mission of the University of St. Thomas School of Education is to educate practitioners to be:
1. morally responsible leaders, who
2. think critically,
3. act wisely, and
4. work skillfully,
5. to advance the common good.
The St. Thomas mission means different things to different people. We are interested in your interpretation of the mission and your corresponding experience. What experience do you have in the above areas? How has that experience helped to form who you are now? How might that experience inform your professional work? This aspect of the application process is intended to measure your written communication skills as well as your ability to consider and apply abstract thinking processes. There are no right and wrong answers; the focus is on clear thinking and writing.
So here's my personal essay. Enjoy!
I can still recall getting off of the plane in Incheon. I was in awe of the whole place; the smell, the look of the airport, and the noises in the background. That was my first memory of Korea. It was also one of the best. This made me curious to experience the rest of Korea. I thought if the airport could be this impressive, then what would the rest of Korea look like? And I was right. I was amazed with the country. This was the first time that I had stepped foot in Korea since my adoption when I was four months old. After my initial two week visit, I knew I was going back. I wanted to experience more and enrich my life with this new found culture.
Fast forward eight years. I spent this past year as an English instructor to elementary aged students in Seoul, South Korea. I liked conversing, teaching, and helping students from different backgrounds. Throughout my time working abroad in South Korea, I have had many experiences that apply to the University of St. Thomas’ mission statement.
Being a morally responsible leader is being a person that can be looked up to as a role model at all times and able to direct others in an effective manner. Throughout my time as a teacher, I was morally responsible for my kids. I was also a leader every day when I came to work. My students looked up to me not only as a young adult role model but also as someone of Korean descent who could speak English fluently. I set a good example by enforcing my rules, which focused on respecting others, not cheating, and listening attentively. I worked hard to instill these qualities in my students. I had to discipline my students in a strict way that got my point across. At times I needed to be very strict in order to discipline my students while at other times I rewarded my students for good behavior through games and prizes. Balancing these techniques created a fun and productive learning atmosphere. Another one of my responsibilities was to manage the classroom. I needed to be resourceful in order to be efficient and teach the kids the appropriate material, all while maintaining my positive classroom environment.
My recent past has offered me many opportunities to think critically. In Korea, I had the experience of a man trying to coerce his way into my apartment. During this stressful time, I was able to remain calm and think critically about how to make this man leave. I lied and told him I had others in my apartment, I alerted the building security, and I monitored his actions from inside my apartment. I reported the incident to my school, and the doorman was informed about this man. Thinking critically is used in many circumstances, but is most beneficial in times of turmoil. Living abroad has taught me how to act wisely in unpredictable circumstances. While living in Seoul, I had to make smart decisions about everyday issues. Thievery is prominent in many countries, and it forces you to be alert and aware of your surroundings. I acted wisely everyday living in a culture that was a drastic change from my home country. I had to respect and adapt to the culture and their everyday life by bowing, becoming accustomed to their hand gestures, and learning to read and communicate in the Korean language. Being open minded, while continually acting wisely, allowed me to wholly embrace the culture.
Many Koreans are known to be racist against dark toned people, such as African Americans and very tan Asians. It was not unusual for my students to make very racist comments. At these times I had to artfully explain to them that everyone is the same no matter the skin color. For example, my students and I were reading a book about Frederick Douglass, the American slave. Before reading this book, I gave my students a summary of the book and further said that I did not want to hear any racial comments. I noticed that while reading the book, one of my students was holding the book only by the corners. After asking her why, she responded with, “But teacher, he’s dirty!” referring to Frederick Douglass’ picture on the front cover. Given these situations, I had to work skillfully to try and make the students see that race did not matter and it was wrong and hurtful to say such things. However many of the students are preprogrammed with these thoughts from their parents. It is difficult to change a nation’s opinion on such a topic, but I skillfully worked to persuade my students to think otherwise.
Moving and living in Korea was a big decision. I knew I had to do it for two reasons: 1) Korea has and always will have a special place in my heart and 2) I had the strong desire to give back to Korea and advance their common good, i.e. the desire to have their children become fluent in English. I have a true passion for learning about and experiencing new cultures. My students were able to portray their culture in many diverse ways which gave me a better understanding of all the facets of the Korean culture. I advanced the common good while in Korea by helping Korea develop into a more global country through teaching a new language, while simultaneously portraying a positive image of the United States. The students were able to learn more about a faraway culture, as did I, which brought our two worlds together. After spending a year abroad I learned that the harder I worked to advance education the more I got out of it in return.
Living and teaching in Korea was a great opportunity for me. I learned so many new things about myself. I learned that I want to help people and I like making a difference in people’s lives. Living in Korea allowed me to see that I am not only American, but I am Asian American, and that I am able to offer a diverse outlook on life. My time in Korea will always be cherished. I believe that I will be able to pull from my experiences in Korea every day when I am a professional in the international education field. Being in tune with other cultures, knowing how to act and think in other cultures, and knowing how to assimilate to other cultures is very important when working in this field. I gained all of that and more while being abroad in Seoul, South Korea. I want to use this learned knowledge to advance the common good in America by allowing others to learn more about other countries and cultures in this world.
Monday, April 19, 2010
"So what was I anyway, I wondered. I wasn't really totally American, and I wasn't totally [Korean]. I was a mixture of the two, and I could never be anything else."
That kind of sums up everything.
I'll write more about all the people who have come to visit Korea later.
Monday, March 22, 2010
The last weekend of February, Peter and I went to Incheon for the day. We just wanted to see it, but mainly go and visit my orphanage, Star of the Sea. It was exactly the way I remember it. They did add on to the playground set and a couple of new buildings, but everything else was the same. It was a little surreal to be there. I didn't know how I was supposed to react or how I should be, especially with Peter being there.
We took some pictures and tried to get into any of the buildings, but everything was locked up. We finally asked someone and she said that we were able to get in. However, when we ran into a nun, she was very cold to us. We asked her if we could go in and see the orphanage, and she wanted to know the reason why. After I told her that I had stayed there, she was like, "No." So then I asked if we could go into any of the places, it didn't matter if it was the place where I stayed. She thought about it, so I thought we might have a chance, but again were given a short "No." She seemed very rude and careless to be a nun, especially when I was like I stayed here while I was baby. She felt no compassion or understanding. But with my experiences (and my dad's) nuns are not the nicest people in the world.
So Peter and I walked out, I was pretty bummed, however I kept telling myself that that wasn't the reason I had come. I really didn't want to go in when I was planning it, it was just a decision on the whim. I also didn't want to look at my folder, if they would have offered, which I'm sure they wouldn't have.
Peter tried to console me, and I pretty much felt like crying, but was embarrassed because it was in front of Peter, which I shouldn't have been. So I was pretty snippy with him and told him I didn't want to talk about it. At that point, I was wishing I was with my parents, where I didn't really have to explain myself with these types of issues. Peter is still getting used to the idea of dating an adoptee in that country of adoption. (I feel bad for him really, since I feel like he has to deal with so much.) He's a strong person though.
I'll have to put pictures up of the orphanage as well.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
I could just show you some more pictures of this outstanding event, or just show you some videos so you can see for yourself!
This first video is of a guy doing a head spin. Peter has told me that if you don't do this trick without a helmet on, you could die.
This next video is of the popping and locking. This is quite cool. Watch the man in the middle with the orange hair. You will be amazed.
Monday, February 8, 2010
Also, just to tell you Peter's story. Peter came here wanting to be the one everyone stares at. He wanted to know what it's like to be different, since he is a white male. He never liked that there were injustices in the world. But, he didn't find that at all here, and he was disappointed. Even here, where everyone looks the same, they still put Peter on a pedestal. And that's what makes it hard for me, because I'm always wondering, shouldn't they like me better than him?? (I know that sounds bad, but I look like them, etc.) So going with the whole identity crisis thing, it's like where do I fit in then? I'm not accepted where I was born, and I'm not really accepted in the adoptee community, and sometimes I feel like I'm not accepted back in MN. But then again, I also absolutely despise that race means so much here. Why do I have to speak Korean because I look Korean? Why can't I speak English? Why should it matter that whites are still better here? WHY?
I felt like race didn't mean as much back home as it does here. I'm also finding myself push the Korean side of me away, because I get so entirely upset with the Korean people. But really, it's quite sad. They don't know any different. They don't realize that the women are being oppressed. They don't realize that half of their babies are being shipped off to other countries because their people aren't able to take care of them.
It's a hard society to adjust to when I've grown up with my parents always telling me that I can do anything that I want. And I can do those things and still be a girl. Where here, nope girls can't do anything here.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Peter also ate one. However, instead of being a wimp like me, he decided to "Go big or go home." He ate an actual squid, with the eyes and all. Eww! Here's his video...
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
I told Alex that I would update the blog for our trip to
Our original itinerary was to leave Mpls at noon the 16th, however, Delta had other plans for us. We pulled away from the gate, only to sit on the tarmac for 6 hours, before Delta postponed the flight until the following day. We were given a hotel room for the night, as our luggage was not going to leave the plane. We would simply re-board the same plane the following day and be on our way to
We arrived in
Our return trip was much the same. We left
Seeing Alex was great!! J She is doing so well and we are so proud of her. It really helped (especially her dad) to see where she lives, how she gets around the city, how she functions in this environment. We went to many different restaurants, many different areas within the city of
She has posted some of her pictures on her smugmug page (http://amhamela.smugmug.com) from our trip.
Some of her previous blog postings seemed to be a little on the negative side – trust me, they were more honest than negative. Everything she mentions from treatment by older generation to men to Americans in general is all true. And while they are not specifically directed at her as an individual, it can often seem like that. But there was the woman who got up and moved away from me on the subway. Not sure if she just simply did not like me, an American, or if she assumed I had the H1N1 flu. Americans are being blamed for that spreading around the world apparently. But, I took that personally!!
I also mentioned the three of us immediately went to
And of course, Peter. Since we have been back, out of courtesy, people have asked Bill and I how the trip was but inquiring minds always want to know if we met Peter. Yes, we did and once again, I have to defer to Alex’s wisdom. He is a very nice guy. I am not sure his plan was to spend as much time as he did with us but he did and without complaint. When they were saying their good-byes to us for the final time, both Bill and I mentioned to Peter how difficult it could possibly be for Alex when we leave. There is something to be said about his character when he steps up and says he will take care of her. He certainly had our gratitude. More importantly, he has good taste in wine too.
Again, outside of the travel debacles, we enjoyed the trip and seeing Alex. She also has at least a friend or two planning to visit this spring and says she herself will be back in
Have a wonderful 2010 everyone.
LuGail (the mom) Hamel