Friday, July 8, 2011

Grad School Admission Essay

As most of you know, I'm starting grad school in the Fall. My program is pretty new, only 2 years old, and is called International Leadership through the School of Education. You probably also know that I would LOVE to work in International Educationa, more specifically Study Abroad. I'm currently a grad assistant in the International Education Center, which is awesome!

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

Hot Dogs and Bamboo Shoots

Just thought I'd share this quote with you. It's from the book, "Hot Dogs and Bamboo Shoots." I'm reading it for work.

"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

Incheon: Star of the Sea

I know I haven't written in awhile...

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

B-Boy Show

A bunch of us went to a B-Boy show this past weekend. It was amazing! The break dancing, dancing, and popping and locking that was done at this show was amazing. These boys are supposed to be the best in the world. I guess South Koreans are known for their abilities in break dancing. Who knew? And where are my skills? Maybe they come with age. ;)

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

Being Different Isn't Always Fun

Things are going well on my side of the world. I have almost exactly 5 more months here in Seoul. I know that seems like a long time to you guys, but it doesn't to me. I'm actually really ready to get out of here. Korea has been an experience, and I'm happy that I did it. But I have also had a different experience than most foreigners, and it just gets old and wears on you. So I'm ready for the next chapter in my life. Which is really uncertain at the time being. Peter and I still want to be abroad, we are just trying to figure out where we should go. Korea you get paid the best, but like I said, I'm quite ready to get IF we stayed, it would not be in Seoul.

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

Eating Live Squid

This weekend, Peter and I decided to go to the Fish Market in Seoul with a group of teachers from my school. It was fun and very interesting. We saw some huge fish there. They had everything, besides some walleye and salmon! The fish, crab, lobsters, etc were unbelievably big. There were 12 of us and in the end, we spent $450 at the fish market, but it came down to about $37 for each person, which is definitely not bad compared to how we ate. We had 6 crabs, 4 live squid, 2 huge fish, 2 plates of sushi, 2 plates of mussels, and 2 plates of clams. There was so much food. It was the most amazing crab I have ever had. So the story goes, we go to the Fish Market and pick out what we want to eat. Then we go to a restaurant, and they cook it for us and we eat it. It can be sad, when we see them kill the fish, but the food is amazing. It was definitely an experience, and I will be going back again! So here's a movie of me eating the live squid. Even though, they were chopped up, they were still moving, and trying to get off of the plate. I was not totally sober when I did this. Who would do this sober?? For awhile afterwards, I felt like it was stuck in my throat, like it was still holding on for dear life. Probably the one and only time that I will eat live squid. But now I can say that I did it! Enjoy.


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

The (Pa)’Rents Come to Korea – Christmas 2009

**According to my mom...

I told Alex that I would update the blog for our trip to Korea to visit her. If I had written this when I first said I would, you would be hearing alot about the travel to and from. I will keep that short and then at the end actually write about our time while there.

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 Tokyo. There was one problem with this plan however. It was Christmas time so there many travelers and most had a connection to make in Tokyo. Delta further told us they could not help us with re-booking until we reached Tokyo. Since we were to be on a flight to Beijing the following morning, I called the Delta and suggested they find a way to get us to either Seoul quickly or directly to Beijing where we could meet up with Alex. When we arrived in Tokyo, we were paged to let us know we had been booked on another airline, leaving within ½ hr. The problem was we were handed boarding passes without a gate number or the name of an airline, so spent a few more minutes obtaining that information. Asiana Airlines - SWEET!

We arrived in Seoul, a day later than planned, but 3 hours earlier than originally thought so we still believed we would need to wait for our luggage to arrive on the Delta flight. This should be a lesson – when paged (for a 2nd time) in a foreign airport, it never is a good thing. Actually, we had been trying to communicate with Alex so I thought perhaps it was a message from her, or better yet, she came to the airport. I was so wrong. They informed me that 2 of our bags were in LAX and 2 of our bags were in Osaka Japan and we could have them in Seoul within 24-48 hours. Did I mention we were leaving for Beijing China within 9 hours? We went to Alex’s, borrowed some things from her (such as Bill used her lavender razor) and the three of us proceeded to catch our flight to China. Bill and I shopped for clothes in China, but you can imagine that neither Bill nor I are the same size as too many Chinese people. Lots of giggles from the clerks helping us!

Our return trip was much the same. We left Seoul and arrived in Tokyo as planned, and boarded our plane for Mpls. - only to deplane again and have another 4 hour delay in Tokyo. Also during our time in Korea, is when the terrorist attack that went awry occurred so the security was exceptionally heavy. Even though we were on the plane home, during that last hour of just sitting there, no reading, no movies, no electronics, etc, makes for a very long final hour after 24+ hours or traveling. And then we landed to lots of snow. Bill and I realized later that had he been successful in his terrorist attempts, it is very probable the U.S. would have again ceased air travel as it did in 2001 and we could still be in Asia. Enough for the travel. We made it both ways, safe and sound.

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 Seoul, and just hung out. While she is not fluent in Korean, she is capable of communicating with the cabbies to get us where we needed to go. She knows the city well – and this is not a small city. If she does not know where a particular location is, she can get us there by using the many things (maps on her phone). During our stay in Seoul, we stayed at a suite hotel and our suite included 2 full bedrooms and baths and a kitchen with an oven. She was able to stay with us in the hotel which was very nice. She does not have an oven in her apartment so we were able to make some of the foods (lasagna) that she was craving. We also used the subway frequently – that would be so nice for Mpls to have something similar. But she is doing great.

She has posted some of her pictures on her smugmug page ( from our trip. Seoul was beautiful at night during Christmas. We had great weather so were able to walk around on Christmas Eve. We were on the 19th floor of the hotel with a veranda so we could overlook Seoul at night. We went to a palace that we had also visited when we went in 2001. Please note the pictures of the cakes. I was amazed how many people were buying cakes on Christmas Eve – I was kind of on cake box patrol! We also went to a play called NANTA on Christmas Day, of which Alex was the participating audience member portraying the bride.

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 Beijing for 4 days upon our arrival. We had a great time there. Seeing/climbing the Great Wall, Tinnamon Square and the Forbidden City and other things. Howe unfortunate the Water Cube from the Olympics last summer is simply an empty building no longer being used for anything. Oh yes, the internet assured me there would be many English speaking cabbies as a result of the Olympics a year ago – the cabbies were apparently on Christmas break because communication was an issue. And did I mention we saw the famous Panda Bears of China – soooo cute. We absolutely had wonderful weather while we were in China, which seems to be abnormal.

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 Minnesota in the summer, at least to visit.

Have a wonderful 2010 everyone.

LuGail (the mom) Hamel