[Students Voices]More than just learning the language

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[Students Voices]More than just learning the language

I was known as a paragon in middle school, a hard-working student who knew how to stay out of trouble.

I was able to proudly graduate with two awards, the math department award and the George Bush Presidential Award.

I chose Concord Academy [in Concord, Massachusetts, the United States] as my next school, for I loved the tranquil environment and the vigorous atmosphere of the school.

Many people predicted a successful secondary school career for me, and I was expecting the same for myself.

However, barely three months after the start of my new life at Concord, I received a three-day suspension for hazing, along with several of my Korean friends.

Because it is usually assumed that punishments like expulsion and suspension are given to students for very serious violations such as smoking, drinking alcohol, or even doing drugs, the decision was very upsetting to me.

However, this shocking incident taught me a valuable lesson, one that I would never forget: the importance of knowing and respecting other cultures.

We never expected such serious consequences because we thought that all we did was playing in the dorms - a joke without malice, a prank that many Korean students living in Korea, especially the male students, would recognize easily as the “Motorcycle” or “Autobike.”

When rumor of this reached a parent of an American student, the prank was instantly transformed into “a hazing act including possible sexual harassment” and caused a catastrophe, not only to me and my friends who got into serious trouble, but also for the school, which had to soothe the anger and concern of many parents.

How did this happen?

I think the lack of understanding of cultural differences caused all this trouble.

“Independence” and “freedom” are commonly used words in the United States. In some sense, they are the words that describe the culture of the United States.

Considering that, it is not surprising that the schools in the United States value individual rights so highly.

In this sense, the Motorcycle was a very serious offense, as it involved a group of people violating another student’s privacy and dignity.

For me, who grew up in Korea where physical jokes are common, it wasn’t that big of a deal.

This difference was what caused such turmoil.

Thinking back, this event could have been prevented if I had more carefully respected the culture of the United States.

I should have known that I don’t have the right to force our culture on others just because I’m used to it.

Now, I wish to give advice to other Korean students, so they will avoid such a mistake.

If we don’t know the culture of different societies, incidents like my recent experience will likely get us in trouble.

Generations before us might have been satisfied with learning just the local language to open communication with different people.

However, the development of transportation and communication technologies enable us to live in a world where people have to interact constantly between many different cultures, everywhere.

We should make efforts to learn how to relate with different cultures, as well as learn languages.

Therefore, we should be eager and ready to meet and understand people from many different cultures, even if to us they may seem eccentric.

In the future, when this lesson is completely internalized by us Koreans, we will be one of the most globalized people in the world.

Again, the first step is to make efforts to learn other cultures.

Kim Hyun-jun (Henry), a sophomore,

Concord Academy, Concord, Massachusetts

*e-mail to eopinion@joongang.co.kr or via fax to 82-2-751-9219
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