Crossing the divide from books to sportsI always hated sports. My passions were school and music. But my first trip to the United States made me rethink my likes and dislikes.
I was 19 years old and attending a Bible conference and summer camp at a church in Los Angeles that has ties with my church in Korea. It was a good chance for me to meet "real Americans," though in this case they were mostly Korean-Americans.
Culture shock hit me from the start. I was introduced to kids my age on my first night, but I was too shy to make friends. And I was uncomfortable with Western culture: The boys were a little too touchy-feely and the breakfasts -- cereal and peanut butter sandwiches -- seemed really weird.
I felt out of place and wanted to go home. I barely talked to anybody.
Then I was asked to play the piano for the hymns we sang before our nightly meetings. Suddenly I was the girl who could flawlessly play the songs. Some kids asked me to play other music for them, songs like "Over the Rainbow" and "Yesterday." I was able to overcome my shyness and felt much relieved.
But one big challenge remained: sports. We had to play volleyball. I didn't even know how. In the first match, I was hopeless. I couldn't even hit the ball. My team lost. I felt miserable and embarrassed. "What's going on here?" I thought. "I'm a nice girl who studies hard, but suddenly I'm a loser."
I hardly touched my dinner that night, I was so disappointed with myself. But afterward, James, our group leader, took me out to the volleyball court and taught me the basics of the game. I was a slow learner, but he didn't give up. After a week of lessons, we had another match. Thanks to the practice, I didn't make any goofy mistakes. And our team won.
After that experience, I felt confident. I realized that I was bad at sports only because I was a normal Korean high-school student who studied all day.
I wonder what it would be like to grow up in a sports-crazy country like America. It would certainly make me more confident and outgoing. I would play volleyball, and maybe soccer. I would take up ice skating.
Still, I have no regrets about studying so much throughout my teens; it made me a better person.
by Jeon Yu-mi
The writer is a graduate student at Ewha Womans University and an intern at the JoongAng Daily.
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