2006 Sejong Writing Competition

Winning Entries :: Essays :: Junior second place

An event that taught a lesson about Korean-Americans
Sarah Honchul

It was the first day of school and everyone was excited to see their friends again after a long summer. My circle of friends and I were as talkative as ever, though only one of them was in my homeroom. As we took our seats another girl entered, a Korean girl. The teacher asked if she could sit with us. We said yes. She stayed quiet as the teacher explained to us that she had moved here from Korea, and she didn’t speak much English. We nodded in understanding and introduced ourselves. The girl’s name was Jimin. If it hadn’t been for Jimin I probably wouldn’t know as much as I do know, for I learned so much from her.

All of my friends immediately befriended Jimin and made her feel welcome. If she didn’t know something, and I couldn’t explain it, then they would step in and help. If she still didn’t get it, then we pulled out her translator, which has saved us multiple times. We would type in the word and push enter whenever we saw the correct entry. She would smile and nod and say, “Oh, I get it!”

We have all learned a little bit of Korean in the process of helping her. We have also learned about Korea, and what her life was like in Korea. We have learned about Korean music, and that Korean kids are a lot like us. They like music and sports and just having fun. Sometimes, I think that she wouldn’t be able to live here if she didn’t have good friends to have fun with.

My dad is in the military, so I know what it is like to go to other places and have to make new friends. Jimin was really lucky to make so many new friends, so quickly. She didn’t have to worry about not understanding words, because she knew that she would have someone to explain them to her. Sometimes, she even teaches me new things. We have so much fun helping Jimin, and she understands so much now, it is hard to believe that she once had trouble knowing what things mean and how to format sentences.

A lot of people at our school take Spanish as one of their electives. We spend five or six years learning all of the fundamentals of the language. Jimin has learned almost everything about the English language and our history in a year. I usually say that she is way smarter than me, because she has moved to a new country, learned the language, learned the culture, learned the history, and she is learning art now. Without Jimin, this would have been just another school year; instead it is an exciting new adventure. She has taught me more than school can ever teach. She has taught me to always help others, even if they are of a different background.

I didn’t know that day that she would become one of my best friends. I didn’t know that I would become a sort of tutor for her. My best friend and I have helped her so much this past school year. We have watched her learn new words and how to form her sentences. She has gone from leaving out “to” and “the,” to knowing where to put certain adjectives and adverbs, to being able to tell where to put “who” or “whom” and how to change verbs to past tense. Helping Jimin this year has taught me how hard it is to go to a country where you don’t know the language, culture, or history, and learn it all in a year or less, something I just learned no matter how many countries I have visited.