[Campus Commentary]You don’t need a date to enjoy a museum

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[Campus Commentary]You don’t need a date to enjoy a museum

It’s been a while since I visited a museum or went to a cultural exhibition. In short, I have stopped going to them.
My excuse is that I am in my third year in college and have less than two years to find employment. Like all university students who say they are very busy, I am a hardworking student looking for work experience to fill my resume.
But I must agree, college students have much more free time compared to people working 9 to 5 or high school students who cram in hagwon classes until late at night. College students have control over their timetable, while employed workers and high school students do not. So I admit that the college years are the best time of one’s life to enjoy cultural activities.
Why don’t I go to museums?
First of all, unlike most young people we see in museums, I am not enrolled in art classes that require trips to museums. Second, unlike a lot of young women seen strolling hand-in-hand with their boyfriends around museums, I do not yet have one to take on dates.
I had a chance to go to one during my sophomore year, only because school seniors thought visiting a museum would help improve our knowledge of art. But it turned out to be another glum experience that made me certain that I never want to go to a museum again.
The exhibition was called, “400 Years of Western Art ― from Poussin to Matisse.” It was a very popular exhibition. It was advertised that many masterpieces, which we had seen in textbooks, would be exhibited there. But sadly, I didn’t learn anything, nor was I impressed. The gallery was very crowded. Before we could take a brief look at a work of art, we had to step aside for other viewers in line to take a look. And, on top of it, I realized I did not know much about Western history or about the fine arts. What could a picture of Achilles from Greek mythology mean to a person who does not even know the story of the Trojan War?
Recently, however, I had a different experience. For a paper I had to turn in for a class called “Understanding Korean Art,” I forced myself to visit the National Museum of Korea. To save time, and to save myself from being lost again in the crowd, I decided to focus only on one topic ― the Buddhist statues. I studied about them before I went to the museum.
Because it was a weekday, there were not many people in the museum, and I had plenty of time to look at each statue carefully and enjoy it.
Also, because I had studied about the statues, I immediately recognized the meaning of each position of the statues’ hands, and each distinguishing feature.
After learning about the symbolism of each statue, I wanted take a look beyond the masterpieces.
I actually found myself enjoying the exhibition.
Museum visits for school assignments are an annoyance, but students can make their visits more productive.
Don’t just tell yourself that this is a great time of your life to enjoy cultural activities. Do tell yourself that while you’re at it, make it a chance to learn something extra.
In my experience, it’s not what you see that matters, but how you approach it (and don’t let the dating couples bug you).

*The writer is a former editor of The Sookmyung Times at Sookmyung Women’s University.

by Goo Youn Eun-ae
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