Still a Beginner …Leaving Seven Months Later

This morning, I’m leaving my guesthouse room in Seoul for the Incheon Seoul International Airport.

It’s the end of a 7.5 month stay here, and I’m happy to be going home.

It would be hard to summarize myexperience. I feel like the more I know about Korea, the less I can conclude. I am fortunate to have made some very wonderful friends here.

I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to spend so many hours in the company of wonderful, funny, open, caring Koreans who were my students. What a cool way to learn about a culture …not from generalizations but building my concepts from opinions, experiences and words of students …one by one, hour by hour, day by day.

I think I underestimated how difficult it would be to learn the language. And I’m still puzzling over the distance I felt in many relationships here. So unlike the feelings of Ghana, West Africa or Latin America.

I think there are many ways to live. And I never want to judge one way as better than another.

But, the facts about the suicide rate having tripled in the past 20 years, and the stress that I saw in many of my students’ lives, leaves me wondering. Will things change for the better?

When I learned about the suicide rate, I tried to teach that topic in any class that it would fit. If we teach about seatbelts, I think people should know about the risks and ways to prevent suicide.

What is the best way to respect a culture you know little about? Where you know that your friends and theirs are more stressed out and more at risk for suicide than we are, that previous generations of Koreans weren’t either.

What can I do? Speak honestly, optimistically, openly and humbly about what little I know. And hope and pray for the best.

About the Author: joangregerson

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