Tag Archives: friend

LSAT and so on

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I finally finished climbing the toughest hill – LSAT, and now working my butt off on all that optional essays and personal statements.  Yes, I feel far much more relaxed than working on LSAT, but it still feels like there is another stone  hanging on my neck.  But, comparing that to my LSAT studying, I really can’t complain.  There’s a short story written by Haruki Murakami – all of sudden, a small middle-aged woman pops up out of nowhere, and just stick herself to the main character wherever he goes.  I feel for the main character.

Three days before the October LSAT, I took prepatory tests, using the three most recent tests.  I did really well – in fact, far better than I expected.  So I was in a good mood.  Maybe it’s because that bread incident that my dad still pests me about, but the result wasn’t good.  In fact, it was far lower than my most recent prepatory tests.  I still think I deserved a bit better score.  I cried my eyes out after I got my scores  – it is upsetting when you really tried hard but get crappy result.  But then, it isn’t my first time and life isn’t fair.  There’s nothing I can do anyway at this point except applying.  I’ve used up my test limits, and I already took a good one year off, devoting everything for the test.

On a positive side, the test was tough.  Actually they set a record for score curve.  LSAT is getting more difficult.  There are schools that weight your undergrad GPA, and I am glad I graduated from university with great national reputation.  Thanks to the economic downturn, I heard that schools give more credit to those who have work experience.  I do have one.  And I will be categorized “international student,” though it feels weird to me.  But as long as my passport stays as Republic of Korea, I will be one, and it doesn’t hurt for application process.  And I’ve been working on my personal statement for a while, so unlike many others, I really don’t have to hustle.  So all I need is to marry off with some American guy and get a green card. Hell yeah. (JK)

Meanwhile, my ex – an US military officer – visited me.  It was surprising.  Since breakup, we didn’t contact each other for about good 2-3 years.  Then out of blue, he contacted me about 2 years ago, saying he will be deployed to Iraq soon, and he wanted to apologize me for unable to handle the situation better.  I accepted it.  Then another 2 years passed.  He e-mailed me, saying he’s temporarily stationed in Dongducheon, got a few days of vacation and would like to spend some time with me.  Sure, why not.  To me, he was distant friend at best.  I expected things to be cool.

Maybe it’s me who is overreacting, but things weren’t so cool.  He said how it is good to see me again.  Alright.  Despite my objection, he insisted on paying for everything.  I did not like this, since I really didn’t want this to be like a date.  He kept checking on me, sometimes just looking at me.  I guess he has some feeling left for me.  Or maybe it’s just because he didn’t get to see many civilian girls.  Or maybe it’s because he went to Afghanistan and Iraq, blowing stuff up.  He is a gentle, caring person.  But I really don’t want to get back into whole romantic relationship thing with him again, unless he is better at handing a relationship with woman and out of military.

Besides, having a conversation with him was a tad bit boring.  When I reunite with a friend, I want to know what changes were there in his/her life.  His stories were pretty much same, since his life revolves around military base.  I don’t know I will send him a Christmas card.  If we were casual friends, I’d sent it.  I still feel bad for him, since he is away from his family, pretty much all alone, and doesn’t get to see his family (I know it can be hard.  Trust me.  CCK with boarding school experience).  But we didn’t start from “casual friends.”  I don’t want to give him any wrong signs, and I really don’t want another headache.  I don’t know.

Living in the World They’ve Never Experienced

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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.

“Sorry, You are Disqualified Because You are Not Foreigner”

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So while I am struggling with the endless battle with LSAT, my friend called me about a possible part-time position.  I was not too keen on it, but hey, at least someone thought of me and that is a terribly nice gesture.  And earning a few more wons won’t hurt me, right?

Friend: Well, they are looking for a native speaker, or “foreigner” for the position.
Ceberus: What?  For the English-Korean translation part-time position?
Friend: Yeah.
Ceberus: That. is. insane.
Friend: I know! I told them they won’t be able to find a “foreigner” with a good-enough control on English and Korean.  But as I heard about the position, I thought of you.  You grew up in the States, speak good English and Korean, right?
Ceberus: Yeah I guess so.  So should I write to this person in English of in Korean?
Friend: Er…both?  ‘Cause that shows you are good at both languages?
Ceberus: Er…I’ll just write in English, since you said they want a “foreigner.”  You know it always helps to be foreigner in Korea, as much as you can.
Friend: AH, TRUE.

There goes my resume.  Which clearly shows my extensive experience on dealing with foreigners, foreign documents.  And I have seperate block for my freelance translation/interpretation.

Oh, and my friend did not have a clear idea about job description (after all, the job wasn’t for her company – it was for her client company), so I also asked them to give me a job description.

The job description never came, nor the reply.  Naturally, I thought the position is bygone.  Well, as I munch down my lunch today, my cell rang. It was the company.

Company: Thanks for the resume.  But we are looking for the foreigner, I mean, native speaker for the position.  I think there was some kind of misunderstanding.  And you are Korean, so unfortunately, we believe you are not the best match for our position. 

And then “we hope to see you again if there is another opportunity” blah blah shit.   Yeah thanks whatever.   Oh and I never thought being a “foreigner” matters that much in terms of job performance.  I didn’t even bother to argue, since my friend already said that they are looking for a “foreigner,” and I am very well aware of Korean (Asian in general) companies’ fantasy on having a foreigner in their office.  Oftentimes, it’s usually a white person from North America.  Never mind that there might be some other Korean who speaks better English AND Korean than that person – it looks cool, who cares?  But if they are really looking for a “foreigner” who can actually translate Korean – English, I say their chance is really, really slim.

It reminds me of how I wanted to join FBI, CIA or MI-5 back in the old days.  The things looked good, because many of these organizations are always short in people speaking good East Asian language.  I happen to speak 2 East Asian languages quite fluently, and my educational background is a good match.  However I had to give it up quickly.  All of them were only accepting US citizens and UK citizens.  No surprise, they are still short in people who can do that.

It’s not my first time, nor this is something that happens only in Korea.  Maybe there was a miscommunication.  Nevertheless I hate this bullshit.

Update: So it was her

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Yes it was.  I logged in my Facebook, and there’s a message from Myrtle.  Rough translation is:

Dear Ceberus,

Do you not remember me? This is Myrtle!  I was surprised by you not recognizing me.  All I remember about you is smiling and friendly to me – did you really not recognize me?  Hmm.  Well I hope your test went well!

Myrtle

Okay, it looks all friendly message and make me look like the villain,  but I was even more baffled (or more of like “of course, I knew it, only she’s capable of doing this”).  It’s a rough translation, and probably also because of imagination, but I think she is just irritated when she’s not the center of the stage.  She just can’t take it, so she just had to stalk down my Facebook, and shoot “you pretended you don’t recognize me.”  If she remembered what he had done to me, she clearly would not have sent this kind of all cheery message.  If she doesn’t remember a thing, now that’s even more scary.   After all, she met me only twice in four years, and once she just attacked me, who was just minding my own works and did no harm to her.  My friend was right; her brain is not connected with the other parts of her body parts.  Of course I deleted the message, and said to myself “well, if you really not know why, it’s all about Karma, baby.”  After that, I changed my Facebook privacy setting to “friends only.”  I am really going to stick with my principal on Facebook: no friends adding unless you really are.

Moral of the story: Be nice.  If you can’t, at least be polite all the time, because you never know how you will cross with that someone in your life.

Too old to be socialy awkward

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I had my first LSAT exam today.  I knew it would be hard, and I had planned to cancel the score for my first exam.  I took it for a kind of “practice.”  Holy moly, it was so much harder and more tiring than I thought.  Game was nearly impossible, reading was harder than I thought.  If I hadn’t plan to cancel my score, you definitely would have seen a lady who climbed one of many bridges of Han River tonight, wearing her bra inside out, screaming that she’s going to jump from the bridge and kill herself on your 9 o’clock news.  I wouldn’t say too much about how was it, because I’ll end up using not-very-clean language a lot.  If you still want to see it, drag from here: it was like a giant big turdbomb smudged on my face.  A total f**kbomb. There, I warned you.  On the bright sight, however, my timing on logic wasn’t bad.  There are questions I couldn’t look at, but I think my timing definetely improved.  And my plans for all the small things – attire, things to bring, etc – was pretty much correct.  The exam site was actually better than my study library.   I am very glad to bring a small bottle of Eucalyptus oil and a bag of espresso bean chocolate.  That woke me up (maybe I need to eat more of them, or with cans of Red Bull).  Anyway…it was the hardest exam I’ve ever done, and I’m worried.  I really might jump off the bridge if I screw my next exam too.

There were lots of non-Korean people for the exam, too.  Which was surprising.  I had to contain myself from randomly joining their conversation.  I’d like to thank my friend for sending a cheer-up text.

Anyway.  The strange thing happened after the exam.  With numerous people who took LSAT and babbling about the questions (too late, people, too late) I headed down to the first floor, completely burnt out.  As I grabbed my bag, and digging dip into my bag for cell phone, a random Korean girl talked to me (all conversations here are in Korean):

“Are you XX? Wait, was it XY?”

It was similar with my name, but whatever-she-called-me was a very common girl’s name in South Korea.  Besides, I couldn’t tell who she was.  How can you?  The girl had a thick makeup, with 2 smokey eyelines with 2 different colors (kudos to her – how can someone manage to have that much of makeup on the day of early exam where you have to get up around 6:15 am?).  And, given the popularity and level of Korean plastic surgery, I won’t be surprised if she had some nip here and tuck there.  If that is true, I would definetely have a hard time figuring who she is.  So, wrong name, unrecognizable face.  Obviously the chance is I don’t know her, and she probably made a mistake.  In addition, I was exhausted.

“Er, no, I think you recognized me as a wrong person.”
“Oh, um, did you not go Notre Dame?”
“I did indeed…?”
“Do you not know me?”
Now leave me alone pervert I’m tired No?”
“Well what year did you graduate?”
“08? Why the hell are you asking?  And who the hell are you?
“I graduated on the same year too?  Do you not know me?”

If I had more vigor, I might have been meaner but I was too tired to be mean.  I just said “No, really, sorry” with awkward smile and stepped out.  Of course, she never identified who she is.

Social Awkwardness Excuse Card - if you can't do it, at least try, like carrying this card

Maybe I’m just really cranky at the moment because of all that pressure and stress I had to go through.  But if I was in her position, I would’ve just said something like: “Excuse me, but but I think I know you, although I don’t really remember your name – are you Notre Dame graduate?  I think I ‘ve seen you around the campus a lot.  My name is Ceberus, do you remember me by any chance?” Or just don’t bother at all.  First, she never identified herself.  Not very nice.  Second, if you don’t remember a person’s name and can’t manage to say you don’t remember his/her name straight, maybe it’s better to not say hi at all, unless you are terribly friend-deprived.  It’s not hard to say that straight away, and even in Korean context, it is considered more polite to say it straight away.  The chance is, she is probably older than I am.  Shouldn’t she know better?  Wait, but I’ve seen a lot of older people who are epic failures in terms of social etiquettes and politeness.  Common sense is not common – I should know better.

I still don’t know who she is, but I have one good guess.  Let’s just call her Myrtle here, and she did something very rude to me.  If she was Myrtle, I would’ve denied my knowledge of her (with all of my heart, get lost!).  I was a covert operation hermit-geek back in college.  One evening, as I chow down my dinner in hurry (I had a laundry to dry and lots of assignments), Myrtle randomly sat on my table and said hi.  It was unusual, because she never did that before.  She insisted that I should move over to table over there, saying there are many Korean students.  Oh yes, I know the routine: since I am Korean, I have to seat and eat dinner with Koreans, no matter how packed my schedule is, or how I’d rather sit with my friends.  But by then, I knew it is better to say yes and sit with them, at least once in a while, so I can avoid making any enemies.  So I did.  I said hello.  Obviously I expected Myrtle to help with greeting and introduction, since she was the one who invited me and knew the Koreans there better than myself.  She didn’t.  I was baffled, but not too surprised.  For some reason, Koreans don’t do this.  You are obliged to come since you are Korean, but the host Korean believes they are not obliged for a smooth mix-up and greeting (and I’m being sarcastic here).  So I decided to just do it by myself.  I kept throwing that questions – what major are you, when did you come, oh such-and-such class is it fun? – but the conversation is just not connected.  I wasn’t that interested anyway.  Meanwhile, my dinner plate was emptied and I really had to go back now.  No more reason to stay.  So I courteously said I have to leave now, and it was nice meeting with all of them.  Then all of sudden, with a big smile, Myrtle said,

“Awkward, isn’t it?  See, that’s why you should join us more.”

Yeah, like you always invited, or tried to take care of me.  What a nice thing to say.  Besides, I was unwilling – isn’t she the one who insisted?  I was too busy to do my job, and she was just not that important.  I just said “Ha!” and left.  If that girl really was Myrtle, then I’d say she has a quiet thick face, if not an utter idiot.  Later I told the story to my dear fellow Korean friend, Soojin.  Soojin said “That’s just the way Myrtle is.  She’s always jealous of people who are hermit-ish and capable by themselves.  She can’t hold back her temper, and most importantly, her mouth is not connected with her brain.  Don’t take it too serious.  I think she’s just baffled because you never join their little club yet doing well.”

Either way, it is even more wearing to deal with someone who is socially awkward, especially after when you are completely burnt out.  Why is common sense not common?  Jeeves, get me some Mint Julep.  I’m tired…wait I don’t have Jeeves.  Don’t they sell Jeeves on Ebay?  I wish they do.

Don’t complain about joblessness when you can’t behave.

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All names are in alias in order to respect their privacy

People say it is important to plan and prepare about your job before you graduate. But let’s be honest – how can you when you are only 22? After all, many of students take a long time to figure out what they really want to study.  Then there’s killer workload.  You do your best to catch up and get a good grade, not to mention doing something meaningful in your college club life or social.  Then, all of sudden, you realize you are college senior.  If you want to pay off your humongous college debt, you’d better get a job as soon as possible.  You haven’t even thought about what kind of job you want.  If it was back in 80’s, there is not much to worry about.  But not anymore. All the good and tasty entry-level jobs are open to only math/econ/biz/engineering/finance majors.  Did I mention the economy is really bad? Oh shit, what do I do, what do I do?!?!

Many of my college friends chose to go to grad school.  Some of them want to study more about their major.  But let’s face it – a lot of people who choose this path did so because they don’t know what to do, except hoping that they would have better chance with higher degree. I hate to say this, but sorry buddy, you are wrong.  The depression might last 3-4 more years.  Even PhDs are having tough time to find a slot in university teaching position.

An ex-classmate of mine, Ben, was one of the people who went to grad school right after college graduation.  I assume his reason for going grad school was both: he liked his major, and lost in the job market.  So he went to Ivy League grad school.  Sure, he’s a nice person.  But many of me and my friends (street-smart and not very sheltered), we can totally see he is very sheltered.  You know, looks nice, wear J-Crew, talks a lot about politics and social problems in a very conservative way, but when someone counters him with life-example, he can’t answer back.  He probably never had a chance to have a conversation with homeless people or drug addict.  By the way, he hates Obama (not that I am Obama supporter, but this gives you a general idea).

He has been complaining a lot about joblessness.  I could feel for him.  It is nervous and draining.  Sometimes employers don’t give us chance because what we have is “too high” for them.  But reading his status today, I almost wanted to say, “you are crazy – you will never get a job in that way.

He got an interview offer from a pro-choice NGO called Planned Parenthood.  The lady there called him and said, “hello Ben, this is Jane from Planned Parenthood calling.  We found your resume from ABC grad school’s student resume data, and wonder if you are interested in taking a paralegal position in our organization.”  (Boy, things are tough for sure – placing non-legal background candidate to paralegal position was unimaginable until few years ago)

Ben ended up saying, “sorry, I’m not a baby-killer.

The lady said “oh, that’s okay.  Bye.

Apparently he is pretty proud of how he reacted.

In terms of job-searching, he made a big mistake.  There are many ways to say “sorry, I’m not a baby-killer” much nicer.  He could have said, “thanks for your interest, but I am not interested.”  If he really wanted to express his conviction, he could have said something like “I am interested in your position, but I don’t agree with your organizations’ belief.”  She will understand.  World is small.  Business fields are even smaller.  What is he going to do if his potential employer is an acquaintance of this lady?  Or, what if your next interviewer is that lady?

And, even if this was not a job-searching time, it’s still rude.  When a beggar come to you and asks for a quarter, are you going to say “you are lazy bum and that’s why you are poor?”  All you have to do is “sorry!” If the lady was really pushy, or if this was a demonstration site, I would understand.  But it wasn’t!

Now I get a feel of why some professors were so difficult to work with, and why the professors with real-world experience were much easier to work with.  Seriously, people, be nice and go out to the real world, even if it is temporary.

Transformation

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(All names are replaced to alias for the sake of their privacy)

There is one good aspect of current depression.  Thanks to the bad economy and job market, I get to see many of my college friends in South Korea.  Of course I never expected this to happen at the time of my graduation – I was too sad that I have to leave USA and lose the life once I had (TCKs can related to me, no?).  Recently I re-connected with Joe, a fellow alum of mine.  We were never really “friends” in college.  He was a friend of my now-strained friend and I met Joe only twice.  He is the man of “legend” – his GPA was 4.0 out of 4.0 for four straight years.  Yes, you read it correctly.  Of course he went to one of the best law school after his college graduation.  Then I did not get to hear about him – my friend became a part of history and Joe’s major was different from mine.  After all,  I wasn’t really interested anyway.

Now that I have been job searching in this depressing economy, the option for law school is certainly looming into reality much more vividly than before.  Fortunately I have connection with some lawyers with international background, and I’ve been asking them questions and such for more concrete planning.  After experiencing my post-college job plan failing (the potential employer, who was willing to sponsor my working visa, canceled everything at the last-minute), I care more about post-grad school than the grad school’s reputation.  Like I said before, I want to be away from Korea or big group of mono-Koreans after my higher degree.  While the information from lawyers are helpful, I also wanted to be advised from someone with more “fresh” experience of law school and the field.  Then Joe came across my mind.

I logged on to alumni directory website to find him.  But I did not know his last name, year of graduation and major.  So I asked my now-strained friend’s mom (her family and our family are still friends).  To my surprise she had no idea.  After many tries, I thought this is a sign and there’s no other choice than giving up.

Next day I logged on internet to find a bit more information about LSAT.   Among the search result, there was several news articles.  On one of those article, there was a picture of someone and that someone looked pretty familiar.  So I clicked it.  And….(Drumroll please) it was Joe.  That Joe whom I’ve been looking up for forever.  To my surprise he has been teaching in one of the best college in Korea for 8 months.  A Korean proverb goes, “the darkest part of room is right below of the lamp.”  Surely that is my case.  I went to the school’s website, got his e-mail address and sent him an e-mail.  So we agreed to meet on Sunday.

Well, there he was – still wearing like a college kid than “law school faculty.”  We had a good time, but I was pretty surprised to see how much he changed in terms of personality.

I met him for the second time in Seoul (when we were still in college).  That was my friend’s birthday and all these Korean kids called us up for celebrating her birthday…or, actually, use it as an excuse to drink the shit out.  I did not drink until I was 21 – I was there but did not drink.  Joe was there too.  Like most of Korean cluster, no one was talking to this “random white guy who clearly does not belong to our circle” and he was just sitting at the corner.  As someone who spent most of life in town that is white as snow, I felt bad for him.  So I decided to go ahead and talk to him.  Well, it was grand failure.  Clearly he does not know how to carry a good conversation.  Having a conversation is like playing a ping-pong.  You serve the ball and he/she should send it back.  I was serving the ball, but Joe was just saying “haha, right” and not sending any of my balls back to me.  That was one of the most frustrating moment of my life.  In summary, while I did acknowledge he is a good lad, he was socially inept.

So I was expecting pretty much same thing.  Lots of silent moments and awkwardness.

To my surprise, he was so very talkative.  Almost like someone has implanted a Ferrari engine on his mouth.  I like conversation but, boy.  It was so intense! For example, there is right moment for you to say something like “well, let’s get going” – when the raw material for conversation is running out, there is a short moment of silence and this is what you say at that moment.  I was deliberately waiting for this moment but there was none.  As we were walking, I expected some moment of silence (so I can relax a bit).  No, he was just non-stop talking.  If I was not talking, he would ask something – “so what did you do on your last job?” “wanna drop by the cafe? (for 2nd time)”  I was completely exhausted at the end of our day – I actually texted my mom, who was visiting my aunt at the area, for a help.  As I arrive my aunt’s house, my aunt said “you look really tired but as you step inside my home, your face was so happy.”  oops.

I did have a good time hanging out with him, and it is always a pleasure to spend time with expats here – not to mention ND alum!  But it was tiring.  And suprising.  So this very same guy, who sucked at carrying a good conversation, is uver-talkative after 4-5 years.  As I “report” the meeting to my mom, aunt and Annabel, they all said: he was hungry for decent conversation.  In English.

Oooh…..now I get it.

It’s not easy to live on your own in foreign country where the culture and language is drastically different.  When I was a high school student, there is a time where I spent the entire week without a good conversation.  On weekend, a clerk at local Express store said something nice – more than “your total is xx.xx” and “receipt in the bag?”  I think it was something about me.  It was really nothing, but I almost teared up (of course I did not burst out of tears at the Express store…no I would not).  At my college freshman year, I was really depressed.  It was like I am carrying a dark cloud over my head when everyone else is just so happy to be in college.  By then I was very used to passing my birthday just like another day.  All of sudden my friend visited my room with a piece of big brownie, singing happy birthday.  I still thank her and for sure I am not going to forget it until I die.

It is kinda funny that now I and they are in completely different position.  Now I’m in my home culture (technically) with family and I speak the language fluently.  But now my friends are in random alien country, away from family and lack the language skill.  I guess my experience starts to shine at the end.

Life does take strange turns.