A student learns to be more open-minded -- call it luck

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A student learns to be more open-minded -- call it luck

The meanest English teacher I ever had was a man named Terry, who taught a class I was taking in Vancouver when I was studying at a language institute there a couple of years ago. Terry was a single white man in his late 30s. He was tall and had a beer belly. And he was the most cynical and critical man I've ever met.

That class had a great bunch of students. There were 15 of us; besides a few Koreans, there were students from Switzerland, Germany, Mexico, Brazil and Japan. Terry was an effective teacher, but his sense of humor was too caustic. If one of us students wore something that he could make a joke about, he wouldn't hesitate. Once I wore a prim skirt and blouse and he made fun of me, calling me a schoolgirl. That really upset me, though I didn't let it show.

Another thing that upset me was the stories Terry told. In one he described how he liked to go rollerblading in a city park where many homeless people gather. We asked, "Do you feel sorry for them?" He laughed, "No, they really stink."

Once I really made a fool of myself in that class. We were talking about studying abroad, but I was bored and started to daydream. Terry noticed, and suddenly asked me: "Yu-mi, do you know any school in the United States that has a sisterhood tie with your school in Korea, so the students can go abroad and experience a different culture?" Confused, I answered, "Oh .... you mean my sister Yur-ah's university?" He said, "What? I don't think there's any 'My Sister Yur-ah's University' in the United States."

Everybody laughed, and I felt so embarrassed and ashamed. After that I gave Terry the cold shoulder. When the end of the term approached, I felt so relieved.

In the final class I had with Terry, the topic was superstitions, and we talked mostly about the origins of superstitions in Western culture, like why people say "Bless you" when someone sneezes. All I could think of, though, was how happy I was that I was almost done with Terry.

After class, though, in the lounge, Terry suddenly came up to me and said, "Yu-mi, close your eyes and hold out your hands." I did, then felt something in my hands. When I opened my eyes, I saw a wishbone.

Of course, I had just learned in class what a wishbone meant.

I realized then that I should be more tolerant of people's humor and lifestyle, and that Terry didn't mean to make me embarrassed - he just loved to laugh.

I still have that wishbone today. I keep it as a souvenir of my time in Canada. And to remind me to stay open-minded.


by Jeon Yu-mi

The writer is a grad student at Ewha Womans University and interns at the JoongAng Daily.
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