Thursday, December 5, 2013

Huyoung Lee/Oral History Final Draft/Tuesday 11 a.m.

A New Life

201102861 Huyoung Lee

Everybody might be living a tough life in this world. Some are struggling to somehow change their lives while the others are just giving up in the middle of their way. Just as almost everybody would probably agree, it looks greater to endlessly struggle to change one's life rather than giving up. I know someone who had an unsatisfactory life but struggled and finally grabbed a new life. "I failed, but because of that, never want to fail again," she says.

She was born in Wonju in Gangwon Province. Her father was a high school teacher and her mother was a housewife. She grew up as a member of middle-class family. She said her childhood was quite happy with her younger brother. They were living in a house with a little garden where her and her brother used to play together jumping and running.

As she became an elementary student, her family moved to Taebaek – not very far from Wonju. Her father was a schoolteacher which made them move when he was transferred to another school. She says she didn't like this very much because she had to adapt herself to a brand new life. She had to make new friends, find new places to play, familiarize herself with new neighborhood. "Maybe that's why I naturally started to develop social skills to get familiar with the people," she says. As she entered middle school and her father was transferred to the same school, her family moved to an official residence around it. She says life in Taebaek was not very exciting. Taebaek was a very small and underdeveloped city where there is nothing a teenage girl would be attracted to. And she didn't like the situation she was living in an official residence. The house was very small and old. What made her really hate the house was a snake. She went to the veranda to get something and then, saw a big snake coiled up there. Panicked, she immediately called her mother and she, as astonished as her, immediately called the 119. "I tried not to enter the veranda as possible as I can since then. I was so panicked." Also, she didn't like her father being a teacher of her school because almost everybody in school came to know her. She was a freshman and fortunately, she says, her father was teaching second and third year. However, every time she was going back her house, she heard some senior students yelling at the window, "Look! There goes his daughter!" And then some curious students come to the window and impishly waved their hands to attract her attention. She tried to ignore it but as it was repeated over and over, she got so tired. So she used to bend her body beside the wall and slowly walked so that she wouldn't be discovered.

She did well in school that she almost always took 1st place in her class. She especially did an outstanding job in English. She always got a top score. There is an interesting story. It was her first English class after having entered middle school. The new English teacher was an old woman. Teachers love to have their students read the textbook and she was not an exception. She called my friend's name from the attendance sheet and told her to read the book. Without hesitation she started to read out loud. Here comes the interesting point. English teachers in Korea, especially if they're quite old, usually have bad pronunciation. On the contrary, students who are quite interested in and good at English have good pronunciation. That was what made the students laugh. It was so obvious that the teacher's pronunciation was not very good and my friend's pronunciation was far much better than her. And it was obviously funny if you think about their position. The teacher too, of course, realized why the whole class was laughing, and her face turned red. "That's enough. You can sit down." She somehow tried to keep her dignity as a teacher and didn't say anything. But later she had to suffer from bad-tempered, deliberate hard works such as being asked very difficult questions which was obviously aimed at her.

She moved to Chuncheon, which is also located in Kangwon Province, at the end of her seventeenth year; her father was transferred to Chuncheon Vocational High School. She transferred to Chuncheon Girl's High School, which was undoubtedly the top among all the girl's high schools in Chuncheon. "That was quite a burden to me. Although I had always gotten good scores until then, it started to fall." She met the vice-principal and had a brief face-to-face talk to get an admission to the school. He looked through her report card and said, "You're not very good at math." She was very hurt by what he said. Her math score was relatively low compared to other subjects but it was, at least from her point of view, not very bad. "I thought this was going to be tough and that was right. There were a lot of smart students and it was quite difficult for me to catch up." Her school grades gradually went down and she was severely scolded by her parents. However, she didn't really try to recover her grades. "I was overwhelmed by all those brilliant students. I got frustrated and didn't think I could surpass them. In other words, I was almost giving up myself."

After having graduated high school, she entered the Department of Home Economics and Education in Kangwon National University. The result was not what she wanted but there was no choice; it was the only university that she got acceptance to among the three universities she had applied to. She hadn't meant to major in home economics and education but her parents, who wanted her to be a schoolteacher, had forced her to apply. She couldn't resist them because she felt guilty about her poor grade on Suneung, a college entrance exam. "It was ironic that I was majoring in home economics when I had gotten so poor grade on it during high school. And I was studying pedagogy when I hated schoolteachers. I never loved my major." In her freshman year, she somehow managed to maintain her school life. She was excited about a brand new college life just like other freshmen. She didn't really care about the grade. She often cut classes and failed the exams. She just spent the days as time goes by, working part-time and going out with guys. There was no reason to be enthusiastic – she hated her major, her department and her school. She didn't really think much about her life or future and she didn't want to. "I wanted to escape from the situation I was in. I had no confidence to face the reality – so I just ran away."

However, as she became a sophomore and got tired of repeated school life, a question arose to her: Am I doing right? "It occurred to me that I'd done nothing in the past freshman year." She wanted to study English. And she realized that her major couldn't help her. So she decided to change her major. It was a hard decision because there was a lot to do to cover her horrible grade. She spent her second year trying hard to recover her grade and get good grades on other subjects, as well as preparing for the test needed for changing major. She studied so hard that she became the top in her department and even got a scholarship from her department. At the end of the year, she applied to the Department of English and English Literature. Finally, she got passed. "It felt like the first triumph in my life," she says proudly.

She was happy that she could study English and English literature. As she loved English, everything was so fun and exciting. She neither cut classes nor failed in exams again. Now there was a reason to be enthusiastic because it was what she could enjoy. As she studied English literature, she became interested in literature. "It was quite surprising because I never enjoyed reading before. What I had read so far was just a few self-help books." Having read a lot of poems and novels, she realized how great they were. She was comforted by them whenever she lost her way or felt lonely, isolated and hurt. Having been deeply touched by the literature, she thought she would write one by herself. Despite her busy schedule, she wrote in her spare time and completed her first unofficial novel "The Letter B" Starting from that, she wrote a few more novels, poems, essays and freewritings. "I started to enjoy writing. That was a big change for me." She's now working on her graduation thesis which is dealing with English poets and their works. "I don't want it to be just a normal 'graduation thesis'. I want to put all my enthusiasm about literature, especially poems, in it so that I could proudly call it a 'masterpiece'." She says she wants to be a writer so that she could maintain her new life she grabbed. 

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