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Writing Across the Curriculum


Holloway Hall

Is it cultural difference or individual difference?
Yoojin Choi
Health and Sport Sciences

It was the very first day of class in US. The first mission I had was to locate the right place to find my professor. I entered a building and kept looking around to find a room for a meeting with my professor. I softly read out the every room number in the hallway as passing by. The hallway appeared endless. My foot steps sounded loudly as my heart was pounding. I felt that the air in the building was filled with scent I had never smelt before. I was surrounded by something new fuming unique smell. The entire sensory system was sending all kinds of signals, telling me, ‘Yoojin, this is not a place in which you used to live.’ I became extremely sensitive to almost everything around me.

Once I arrived in front of his door, I sighed deeply at a feeling of insecurity and had to take a moment. Then I opened the door of his office casually, though it was not totally a casual occasion for me. There was my professor. He welcomed me with a big smile and acted as if he met his old friend. I automatically took a bow in response to his welcoming. After a couple of the years spent in US, finally I was able to lose my old habit, - something that I took completely for granted - ' taking a bow to my professors or someone who is older than me' No matter how bad my day was, I always responded back to people saying hello, ‘I am good,’ with a big smile. I was seemingly assimilating to this culture and doing okay with the transitional period. Unfortunately, it was not until my teaching career officially started in US that I realized the positive outlook was premature.

‘I do not have times for you today, tomorrow, and the rest of the week because I have practices’. It was a response from a student to my invitation to a further assistance with a course activity. On the other day, I presented a new approach to design a motor task. A student reacted strongly to it with a big gesture and said loudly ‘What?’ He also did not forget to make a face to make sure that I received his message, which assured me of his discomfort that how come I could say something against what he had firmly believed. In 6 years of my life in US, I felt insecure and overwhelmed once again. It was like walking down alone in the empty hallway in which I had never been. I was left alone in the endless hallway as I was on the first day of school.

As people in the world are getting globalized, speaking in more than one language is now common. In a way, cultural difference may be an outdated term. Today, a student came to me and told me, ‘Ms. Choi, would you mind if I leave class 5 min early to see my Doctor? I would not want you to think that I just walk out you.’ When he left, I thought his concerns about me and asking my permission was not because he didn’t feel cultural difference but because he thought that’s the way it should be. We do not say it would be a cultural difference if a child were rude to his mother or if a child walked out while a teacher was talking to a child. Then I was smiling, which was a real one. I was convinced that if I can teach humanity and sensitivity to students, if I can possibly raise students’ sprit of acceptance and patience, it can make difference. I believe some of diversity issues may be simply individual problems, which are not from cultural differences. Now I’m not in the hallway anymore. I’m ready to get out.


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