[ANOTHER VIEW]Growing up abroad provides perspectivePeople say that the world is made up of what one knows. Every experience in life accumulates and we use them to analyze, draw conclusions about, and form judgments of the world we live in.
This is why parents are very conscious of increasing the opportunities for their children to broaden their experiences. Moving to another country is one such example.
For someone as active as myself, living in a whole new culture presented many challenges and lots of excitement. Looking back, my eight years as a teenager in the Philippines, where I now feel at home, had the greatest impact in my life, marking me permanently in Korea as an “overseas student.”
My first two years in the Philippines were not pleasant. I was admitted to school as a “special student,” participating only in classes that didn’t require English or Tagalog, such as math, physical education and music.
My parents thought that studying in a local school rather than in an international one would be better in the long run because their daughters would always have friends to return to.
As a special student, I was indeed treated as special. No one wanted to hang around with someone who had a funny accent and didn’t understand their language.
That’s when I started comparing the different cultures and education systems of the two countries. I liked the carefree, participative and creative ways of learning in the Philippines but preferred the systematic and in-depth learning of math in Korea. I have always remained a Korean student who tries to be objective of things in both countries.
When I returned to Korea for college, I realized that people didn’t see me as an ordinary Korean student, nor did I feel comfortable being around other Korean students. Like others who lived abroad during their childhood, I felt like I was hanging in limbo, not fitting into any particular society. I felt more Korean than ever in the Philippines and felt more Filipino than ever in Korea.
In Korea, there was a whole new challenge of finding friends with similar backgrounds, with whom I could relate. There was gossip that people like me are “bimbos,” who can speak English well but have nothing in their heads.
Readjusting to my old ways wasn’t easy, but at least I got to see both the good and bad sides of this society, which ordinary Koreans probably fail to notice.
I eventually realized that I would always be an “overseas student,” regardless of where I am. I also figured that being treated slightly differently isn’t that bad. I now have two societies that I can analyze and form judgments from. My unique experiences in the Philippines and Korea widened my perspective and helped me remain objective. I learned this the hard way, but I definitely learned it.
by Kim Won-kyung