Value in Difference: A Global Approach
Value in Difference: A Global Approach
  • Misty Carmichael
  • 승인 2010.03.24 10:16
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▲ Misty Carmichael
Agnostic, anarchist, liberal, and foreigner: of all the labels I could embrace, one that I wear proudly is that of “feminist.” I am, more specifically, an American feminist, possibly with an axe to grind in my home country, but that is neither here nor there. What does being a feminist mean? To me, it means I believe males and females should be treated with equal respect in the workplace and in society: nothing more or less. In fact, feminists don’t even have to be women. Many straight American men are also feminists.

However, in Korea, I am not a feminist. I don’t want to change the social structure here or lead any sort of change. I believe that Koreans are the only people to make that decision.  I am not here to serve as any sort of “example” or “role model.” Basically, I’m not here to interfere; I’m here to teach English. I find Korean women to be very powerful in their own way, and they wield that power in a method befitting their culture. I am absolutely sure that, if they desired it, Korean women could run this country in a New York minute-as is reflected by the increasing number of females in government positions.

When teaching English, however, you inevitably end up teaching about your own culture. This means that, inside the classroom, I must be myself. I don’t need or want Koreans to agree with my perspectives, but will give them the opportunity to hear and understand my viewpoint. Why? Because good foreign language education allows you to mentally prepare yourself for difference, thereby lessening the jarring effects of culture shock. Teaching only grammatical structures and listening skills will not sufficiently prepare you for what you will experience should you choose to take advantage of the study abroad opportunities here at POSTECH. Sure, you can pass a test, but what about mental preparation? The more you allow yourself to encounter and seek to understand difference, the better prepared you will be to thrive and do well in both business and study overseas.

In fact, how many foreign friends do you have here at POSTECH? Chances are you will have the same number of foreign friends when you travel abroad. If you aren’t prepared to encounter difference, you must prepare to encounter loneliness. 

Old habits die hard, so I wish I had had more time and opportunities to had learned about Korean culture before I came to this country. Occasionally, Korean culture still throws me off. Sometimes I smile when, in retrospect, I should have bowed. I have to consciously focus on which hand to pour what liquid with. I, too, am guilty of having fallen into culture difference traps. Fortunately Koreans are generally forgiving and patient about this, but I still hate to do the wrong thing. At times, I envy what Postechians have in the way of preparation for the foreign culture they will encounter.

I think it speaks volumes about the authenticity of the Humanities and Social Sciences program that they have brought an unmarried, 30+ feminist woman here to teach. Clearly this campus wants Postechians to be prepared for the notoriously liberal halls of U.C. Berkeley! With this in mind, I appreciate thus far the open mindedness I have seen here in upper-level classes at POSTECH, and wish Postechian exchange students the best of luck.

Misty Carmichael
Lecturer of HSS