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Journals from Yonsei University, Korea

2009-09-17 Classes Actually Begin

So last Wednesday all of my classes got underway. Here is a breakdown: My Political Economy professor is the youngest and least experienced with English. On paper the man can communicate wonderfully, but it takes a patient listener to get everything in class. I really think Im going to enjoy it, though. After the first lecture I made sure to tell Randy that this guy is teaching it with political acting as the adjective, meaning that the course is centered on explaining political phenomena through economic theories. Ive wanted to take a class like this since my freshman year, so I'm excited to finally get one in. Korean class is rather challenging, and the first day was about 10x worse than my first day in Japanese. Im not fond of their teaching style or textbooks. Reason number 1: We had to learn the alphabet and there were no pronunciation charts or CD recordings that just went through the entire alphabet. There are some sound combinations that we dont use in English and there are some that I have a hard time pronouncing as an English speaker, so the first day or so was a nightmare. For those of you who think my pronunciation of words like color (comes out collar) or corn (sounds something like kuh-or-n) are special, boy would you get a kick out of hearing me learn to say the Korean vowels and r combinations. I felt like the illiterate kid in the corner so have spent a lot of time studying, but things are going better now. I didnt realize that I was able to enroll in a grad class since I am a senior, but once I heard I emailed a professor right away to get into one. I dropped the idea of taking East Asian International Relations in favor of taking the grad level North Korean Politics and Foreign Policy. There were only about 20 spots open in the class, but on the first day well over 70 people showed up. The prof was great, opened unlimited enrollment to be able to meet the interest. He has worked at the leading private intelligence think tank, highest government agency and actually been to the North a couple of times. He has a great sense of humor to complement the stories, so it promises to be one of my favorites this semester. On Thursday my Politics of the North and South finally made an appearance. As it turns out, he was stuck in Hawaii during the first class. He is such a hoot! The man walks in wearing this very baggy gray suit and brown shoes. Between the suit, shirt and tie there were three different directions of stripes going on. He is a self-professed absent-minded scholar who has gotten by doing the bare minimum. Today he started really lecturing, though, and I was surprised how knowledgeable and captivating he actually is. There will be a lot of cross-over from this class and the North FP one, but it should be interesting nonetheless. My final class comes with the funniest story. I looked at the syllabus for Tae Kyun, national treasure No. 76 and very traditional martial arts. It was in English, so I assumed that I could enroll. Lets just say that on the first day I was the only non-Korean student in the class and got to sit through a lecture where I could understand nothing but what I could piece together from his gesticulations. The man is funny, though--I could tell that. I did speak to the prof after class and he told me that if I was comfortable then he would be happy to see me remain enrolled, since after the first few lectures it is just all body movements. Its a pass/fail class so if I show up Ill be fine. Besides, I figure it will be an incredible experience and hopefully a way to meet more Korean students. So that ends the academic news. Obviously as I fall into the more normal pattern of school and life my blogs will get more spaced apart, but I will do my best to keep everyone up to date of all the highlights. Ashley Price Yonsei University Fall '09

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