The following is a report from one of my Kookmin University students in 2008, after completing the scariest assignment I ever gave them. Robin
AN UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCE, by 최준영
To be honest with you, I had been worried about the assignment of interviewing foreigners for quite a while. It’s because having a conversation with foreigners is like a big obstacle which seems unconquerable to me. For no special reason, I’m afraid of speaking in English and taking initiative in starting conversation with foreigners. Whenever I imagine myself with a foreigner, I feel like I have butterflies in my stomach, so I braced myself up to start my assignment.
At first I looked around my campus for the interview, only to find no one to talk to. I searched every corner including the students’ cafeteria, dormitory, and everywhere foreign students seem to poke about. However, I ended up finding no one after searching for an hour. I got desperate and decided to go to Insa-dong, which is a big tourist attraction.
As I expected, there were many foreigners there. I was relieved and glad to see them. However, I told myself, “What am I supposed to say to them?” Even though I practiced the questions to open the conversation over and over again, I was at a loss. In fact, I lost lots of chances to talk to them because I thought someone would laugh at me if I speak in English. I was not confident and too shy to open my mouth. One hour passed while I was complicated with lots of thoughts discouraging me.
Then I made up my mind to approach a foreigner without fail. At the moment, two foreigners were coming in my direction. I quickly moved myself close to them. “Excuse me, but would you help me do my homework, that is to interview a foreigner?” It was the first time for me to talk to a foreigner that I’d never met. As soon as I completed this sentence, I got thrilled. Moreover, when they smiled mildly at me and showed a gesture of understanding, I felt encouraged to say more.
At first, I asked their names, and I got to know that one is Margaret Healy and the other is Gayle Fransworth. Margaret was kind enough to let me know that Margaret is a given name and Healy is her surname. The more I talked with them, the more confident I became to speak English. I assumed it would be impolite to ask how old they are, so instead of their age, I asked where they came from. They told me that they’re from Australia. Confused whether they said Austria or Australia, I asked them to say it one more time. Gayle clearly and slowly enunciated the word Au-stra-li-a. She also told me it seemed desirable to practice English with well prepared questions.
I asked them many other questions. They told me they were supposed to go shopping, and then they’ll have Bibimbap because Bibimbap is one of their favorite Korean dishes. My face got reddish when they asked me out for Bibimbap together. After such a pleasant interview, I thanked them for their time and gave them my best wishes for their stay in Korea.
Compared to their bright smiles and friendly gestures, I was a little tensed, and showed a lack of eye contact. Although I was a little nervous to speak in a foreign language, I was unconsciously influenced by the Korean culture in which having direct eye contact with adults is considered rude. I don’t think I had a perfect conversation with them, but this opportunity will definitely be a stepping stone to improve my conversation skill in English. In short, I gained more confidence in speaking English than ever. I am no more afraid of speaking English, and confident in opening conversations with people from another country. This precious experience had a positive impact on learning English for me. I appreciate our professor for providing me with this kind of unforgettable opportunity.