This is a very special story written by a very special student at KMU. I’m sorry I don’t have a picture, or even the correct spelling of her name. For now, she is just the girl who didn’t settle for less!
Hello, everyone. I’m delighted to give a speech in front of my classmates today. The story I would like to share with you is basically about how I ended up being here at Kookmin as a college student. It’s also about the struggles I have been facing for the last decade and what makes me keep fighting to overcome the obstacles that lie around me and also within myself.
I hope that my story will be an encouragement to those of you who might think it’s too late to start something great, or to fix the mistakes you have made in the past.
I’m currently in my junior year, majoring in Industrial Design. Like many of you, I’m just another college student with goals and dreams to succeed in life. One thing very special about me, however, is that I’m 33 years old and I entered this university back in 1995, which was 12 years ago. After finishing my sophomore year in 1997, I decided to take a year off. I wanted to explore a lot of things outside college life. I became very comfortable with my life during that year. I was busy traveling, learning English, and also having several part-time jobs. The problem was that I kept postponing going back to school even after one year had passed. I wanted to stay in my comfort zone.
During that time, I also met and fell in love with a very special guy who is now my husband. Blinded by love, we decided to hurry up and get married. My husband and I have been very blessed to have a strong marriage for the past seven years, yet having to make a living and making ends meet as small business owners kept me from going back to school. I kept telling myself, “Somehow things will be different next year, and I’m going to have a chance to study the things I was once very passionate about.” Like water under a bridge, ten years passed by since I left school with the intention to take only one year off.
Facing the ten-year anniversary of my unfinished dream last winter, I felt like it was now or never. When I finally started to consider going back to school, however, I felt afraid and ashamed. I began to wonder what people around me would think and whether I would be able to follow along with the curriculum. I was even afraid to face all the teachers who might recognize me and wonder why I had come back. Well, this should tell you I’m not an assertive person. Fortunately, with my husband’s support, I finally got the courage to apply for re-entrance into Kookmin University and I was accepted.
Before the first semester began this spring, I paid a visit to the office of our department in order to ask a few question about some classes. I ran into one of the professors who had also been around ten years ago and he recognized me. The first comment that came out of his mouth when he saw me was, “You’ve gotten so fat! What happened?” I simply didn’t know what to say. While I was still standing uneasily in front of him, he continued to speak. “Well, I heard that you were coming back, but why do you need to come back after all these years? I just don’t see the point now that you are married and all.”
Composing myself with a smile, I replied, “I want to and need to study industrial design because I’d like to build my own design company someday.” Then he said, “Are you serious? You should know better. That plan seems very unrealistic to me.” I took it to mean that my goal should be staying at home and being a good housewife. I wish he hadn’t been so insensitive. I was deeply offended but I kept smiling because it was obvious that there was nothing I could do to change his way of thinking.
Deep down in my heart, I knew he was wrong and that I have every right to pursue my dreams regardless of my age or circumstances. I also believe I can be successful if I pour my heart into whatever I do. Strangely, however, his comments lingered in my head and began to drag me down. I felt embarrassed and not good enough to accomplish anything great. Whenever people acted shocked or confused about why I’m here as a college student, I began to regret coming back to school. I started thinking, “Maybe it is too late for me to do this.” Then, I thought to myself, “If I allow people to keep me down, it will only be my loss, not anyone else’s. If I try my best and things don’t work our, then at least I will have no regrets. If I give up, I’ll wonder for the rest of my life what I could and would have accomplished.” After all, you only live once and it’s worth taking a chance to make your dreams come true even when the circumstances are less than perfect.
Obviously, I’m not the smartest person in the world, not do I have a lot of talents. I was a so-called “college dropout” and I am at least ten years behind people in the same class. It’s been a long time since I last contacted any of my college friends because I used to feel like a loser. It may not seem like a big deal to you, but it took a lot of courage for me to be where I am today.
Grabbing hold of one thing at a time, I’m doing better and feeling more comfortable every hour I spend here on this campus. I try to stay focused and do my best in everything I do. If I’m lacking in something, my theory is that must work twice as hard to succeed. After finishing the very first semester back at school, I was notified that I was the first in my class and I would receive a scholarship as well. As you can imagine, my husband and I were extremely happy that day.
Looking back on the events that made me sad and uncomfortable, I’m glad I didn’t let them persuade me to deviate from my plans. I still have a long way to go in order to make my dreams come true. Should I face similar difficulties later on in my life, I hope that this experience will remind me to keep going. I truly believe all of us are capable of anything as long as we put our heart into our goals and dreams and more importantly, do not allow others to drag us down no matter what.
When I finally graduate from Kookmin University, I hope to have gained something even more valuable than a diploma, something I didn’t consider important before. I hope to become a person who is much more courageous, confident, and also compassionate. Courageous enough to do what I believe in, confident enough to stand up for myself, and compassionate enough to put myself in the shoes of others. I’d like to thank you for listening to my speech.
Art by Elizabeth Slettnes