I don't think this is the place to brag about my scholarly success since I didn't have any prospects after studying my major after graduating university in 1976. Back then, the financial situation in Korea was much worse, not only for me but also for my fellow students. Why am I talking about this sort of depressing episode? I want to tell you that if you really want to do something, there may be a way. I had been too busy to concentrate on my studies during my career as a middle school teacher and then as a businessman at Korean Air Lines. But I couldn't just give up my desire to study more. I realized that money was not everything and that I might find a meaningful career if I did not give up studying English. For example, I often read English books until 2 a. m., even after binge drinking and negotiating air traffic rights with foreign partners. My wife was sometimes upset. She surely thought it was a kind of mildly drunken frenzy since I was married with two babies.
Thus, when I decided to go to Australia to study English literature at the age of 34, nobody believed I was really doing it. They thought it was an excuse to escape from my country, even though I'd gotten a scholarship. I heard later - but I am not sure - that that scholarship was only provided to eleven Asian candidates by the Australian Government. You know, I myself was not very sure whether this decision would be successful because I had a miserable amount of money to support my wife and two kids. The first six months in Sydney was unbelievably hard for us to survive. However, I was confident that I might be one of the best in English language in the Korean ethnic community in Sydney. I'd gotten a license as a 1st class interpreter and translator. I worked as a freelancer rather than at a regular position. It is worth doing it if you have a high ranking in your field. It was more lucrative than manual jobs such as dish-washing or house-cleaning. Since I became an interpreter, I had to study.
Among many the many possible episodes for practical advice that I could use, I talked about my hardship in plain English in order to give an example to students today who may not know what to do with their own lives. The lesson I learned from my experiences is that whatever you do you should train your basic skills to excel above every other competitor in your field. I can tell you that I am still practicing my skill, English, because I want to be one of the best Korean professors in the field of English language and literature, even though I may not be the best in the world.
By Man-Sik Lee< Copyright © The Gachon Herald All rights reserved >
Professor, the Department of English Language and Literature