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The Korean educational system can be a passive environment where the students learn to simply do as they are told. I went to school in Korea where I was not aware of my obedient attitude, all of the students behaved in the same way. Because Korean students only follow the teachers’ direction, the classes tend to not be very creative in essence. It was common for all the students to write the same exact essay.
In 2006, I moved to Vietnam when my father was transferred from his office. I was afraid of moving because I had no idea what to expect. How would I make new friends? How would I adjust to the teaching style of my new school?
My first year at Saigon South International School was terrible. It was difficult to make friends because none of the teachers assigned seats. In Korea, teachers select certain locations for each student when class begins. We are given things like crossword puzzles as an icebreaker. Without the teachers’ directions and activities, I retreated to the back row and never had any opportunities to talk or interact with my classmates. I was confused and very lonely.
The one place that I felt at home was my church. It was five minutes away from my home and I went twice a week. I joined the choir and I soon found it helped to center me. My choir teacher, picking me out as the oldest, assigned me to lead the group at the beginning of 2007. Having been taught obedience in Asian society, I begrudgingly accepted the teacher’s request.
I loathed leading a group. It required tons of work, time dedication, and leadership which worried me the most since I was having so much trouble making friends. If I had trouble meeting people and making friends at school, how could I convince the choir to follow my orders?
Because I had never done this kind of work, I often made huge mistakes. I once forgot to wear my choir uniform, repeatedly called members with inaccurate names, and skipped practice because I didn’t wake up on time. The relationship between me and my members was tense and awkward. We weren’t cooperating, our performances suffered, my worst fears were coming true.
Once, I heard members complain about me during break time. I decided to make a change. I was not going to be afraid anymore. I talked with team members, I spent more time with them outside of church, and I even asked church newcomers to participate in the choir. Due to hanging out, making friends, and not being afraid; our music got better, we had more fun, and our church was a better place.
Even though I was having so much success in choir, I was still alone at school. I began to make the same changes in my classes that I had made in church. I started to make some new friends by simply saying hello and asking people to hang out with me. Quickly, I found myself sitting in the front row and laughing down the hallways. My teachers took notice and my grades began to improve.
My friend once told me that she had heard about my choir even though she had never been to my church. She said my choir group was famous for its friendliness and great music. I was extremely proud of myself because I knew then that I had finally become a successful leader. I had overcome difficulties, succeeded to adapt in a new environment, thought positively when things got bad, and learned how to deal with new people and challenges.
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