A friend of mine – let’s just call her Jane – is a so-called “international student” in America, working on her MA and PhD degree at U-Penn. Recently she finished her MA and went back to America to work on her PhD. As Jane’s mom drover her to the airport, they started chatting. The topic soon went to her MA graduation:
Jane’s Mom: You see, the professors’ gowns were really pretty. I guess Harvard is actually a better school than Columbia or U-Penn, indeed. Like, the Columbia and U-Penn gowns were all strange blue and not as pretty as I thought.
Then Jane started to cry, saying
Jane: What, are you ashamed of me because I went to U-Penn, not THE Harvard? Did you want me to go to better school? I could have gone to Harvard, and I picked U-Penn because you talked about tuition all the time!!!
Her mom is not very sure what she did wrong (or, I suspect she thinks her daughter is being sensitive).
As someone who went to boarding school away from parents for many years, I can totally see why Jane was so hurt. Living away from family and going to school bring lot of stress. All the other kids can just call up their parents, and they will be there in a day or so. Not us, though. Our family is 13+ hour flight away from school, so you are pretty much on your own. There’s no safety net and we know it. On the top of that, non-citizens constantly have to update and care about all the regulations and stuff, especially because it is getting so much tighter and tighter (all thanks to Bush and Islamic extremists – go to hell, all of you). Of course the local kids don’t have that. After all it’s their country. This goes on every single day.
On the top of that, the Korean culture is all about connecting their kids’ school name with keeping the family’s face up, and indirect communication. Parents complimenting or supporting their kids’ choice is scarce, when compared to western countries. I don’t know for how long my mom pestered me for not going well-known (in Korea) Ivy schools and choosing a lesser-known (in Korea), mid-sized college. I had to repeat that I want to be where I like for four long years, and I want to do what I want in college. Well, if it worked at one shot, I didn’t have to repeat myself, right? And honestly, I can’t really think of times when my mom complimented me. I can think of so many times of her screaming at me, though. Which I will blog in detail later on…
Long story short, parents, please keep in mind that your kids know how Korean culture is all about school names and keeping up to the family expectation. And also do keep in mind your kids are living in a world that you have never experienced and will never know every day, with great amount of stress, knowing that they don’t have safety net like other kids around them. Please do not think they are all fine. Just let them be and let them relax in peace.