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!

2Hello, 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, nor 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 I 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.

An Unforgettable Experience, by 최준영 ~ The Joy of Speaking English!

Meeting foreigners in Insa-dong

Meeting foreigners in Insa-dong

The following is a report from one of my Kookmin University students in 2008, after completing the scariest assignment I ever gave them. Robin


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.


The Dream Job

with KMU Students

with KMU Students

These are a few of my wonderful students at Kookmin University in Seoul, Korea. One day after class we noticed that we were all wearing pink, and decided to take a picture. I’m lucky to have it now as I look back at my dream job.

I think I always wanted to be a teacher, but somehow gave up the idea when I was quite young after hearing a disparaging remark from my older brother. Fast forward 40 years, and there I was, standing in front of a class of freshman university students in Korea. It was an incredible journey to get there, and it took me a long long time. I’m always grateful to Reverend Moon Sun Myung for “encouraging me” to go to graduate school where I got the credentials I needed, and then inviting me to come to Korea, where the only job I could do was teach.

My first job was at a “hagwon” which I would normally call an after-school language institute or academy. I worked in the countryside town of Gochang (고창) in Cheollabuk-do, a 3 and 1/2 hour bus ride from Seoul. It was the first place we went when we came to Korea, and we stayed there for 3 years. My husband and daughter were there with me. She was attending the Gochang Girls’ Middle School, and going through her own journey. (see

The hagwon job was hard. I came home every day exhausted by the long hours and constant discipline problems. I didn’t really know how to teach, and I was in a country with an unfamiliar way of doing education. I was shocked by the games the kids played because of the pain they inflicted on each other, and the punishments they endured from their teachers. I surprised myself and knew I was getting inculturated when I bought one of those bamboo sticks that make a noise when you slap it into your palm.

When Emilie graduated, we moved to Seoul, and I was given a job at Seokyeong University because of its connection with her high school. It was an upgrade from life at the hagwon, and I was happy to be with other colleagues I could learn from, and older students who weren’t running around the classroom. However, I had learned a lot from my exuberant elementary school students in Gochang. They were incredibly un-self-conscious. I remember the time one of them came up to the front of the class to show me very proudly that she was wearing her first training bra. “Teacher, look!” I was the embarrassed one! Those kids showed me the Korean culture without realizing it, and I found myself falling in love.

After two years teaching at Seokyeong University, I got a job offer from Kookmin University. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had just found my dream job. Looking out at my classes, I knew I was fortunate to have found a career that gave me a chance to be with young people every day, fit my skills and interests, and provided me with so much fulfillment and joy. I loved my work at KMU for many reasons. The school offered us a lot of freedom to create our own classroom style and content, which is not the case for many teachers. Our department chairman, Dr. Kim Do Yeon, gave us the opportunity to design and teach content courses in our specific fields of interest. I created a course in Extensive Reading, which was a growing passion of mine, and one of my colleagues designed a fantastic course in Greek Mythology. We were inspired and so were our students.

I gained a lot of experience while at KMU, and I gave a lot of time and attention to any student who asked for it. They were eager to overcome their fears of English and helping them was one of my main tasks as a teacher. They wanted to become global citizens, and English was the ticket to get them there. Sometimes I felt like a prophet on a mission ~ every second of class time was precious, and every thing we did was for the same goal and purpose~ to get them speaking freely and with confidence. I came to see myself as an ambassador for the US as well. Many Korean young people were voicing the popular sentiment to remove the American military from South Korea, and let their country stand for once on its own. I was aware that what I did and how I behaved made a difference.

There are many things I can tell you about my Dream Job at KMU, and one of the greatest takeaways was the collection of hundreds of stories that students wrote about their life challenges and victories. I am looking back now from across the sea and thinking about how precious these stories are, and how I would like to share them. So begins THE LIFE STORY PROJECT!

LEARNING EMOTION, A Korean university student tells the story and challenge of his life

RD Stud 2A

  Hello, everyone. I am Park Jun Bum. It‘s a great honor for me that you’ve come to hear my speech. I’m a junior at Kookmin University and I’ve been studying Metal Craft for six years. Before I entered the university, I studied drawing for seven years, so I’ve been studying art for a total of thirteen years. As an art student, I have to be an emotional person. I’m learning how to take in my emotions in my daily life, and this is my story.


First, I’ve discovered that I can learn from everything around me. You can learn from people, animals, and the changing of the seasons. Here’s an example. One day I came back home at five in the morning, and I was really tired. I opened the door, and my house was dark and quiet. My family was asleep.  Only one small creature was awake, and that was my dog. He shook his tail and welcomed me in. He was happy that I had come back home. He never cares what time of day it is, how late it is, or how tired he is. He’ll always be there, and his eyes always seem to be encouraging me.


In Korea, we have a proverb, “He’s worse than a dog,” but at that moment I knew that this proverb was wrong. I learned then, that if a little dog can make me happy, then a little concern for others can make them happy as well. A truthful mind is revealed in truthful eyes, and you can trust that, and make good relationships with others. 


The second thing I’ve learned is always to be positive. A positive mind is really important in life, in making relationships with others, and in many other ways. When I was seventeen years old, my father committed suicide. He was disabled, and very unhappy all the time.  He lost his temper and was very negative. He tried to overcome his problems, but he couldn’t, and chose to kill himself. I lost my father and was very depressed, but I knew I couldn’t be like him. His death taught me a lot. This is when I learned the importance of having a positive mind. I want to always have a positive mind, even in bad situations. It’s like magic. This kind of mind doesn’t have hate, jealousy, blame or regret.  This kind of mind is happy and filled with delight and love. This kind of mind makes me happy and I can smile and live with appreciation for my life.


The third and final point is that everything is expression. This is not an exaggeration. I always express myself. I think human beings are social animals and we need to talk with other people, whether we’re happy or sad.  Sometimes I write my feelings down, or take a photo to show my emotions. I show my work to other people and we share our feelings with each other. This is a really enjoyable part of my life. When I express myself, I know I’m alive and that I can be a more active and passionate person. It tells me who I am and what I’m going to do, even in giving this speech.


Learn from everything, be a positive person and express your feelings; these are the ways I’ve learned to feel my emotions. I’ll probably be learning forever. I’m sure it’s going to give me a rich life, and maybe I can help others along the way. I hope we can all be happy and always live smiling at life.


KOREAN STUDENTS ~ In their own words


THE LIFE STORY PROJECT is about stories of challenge and victory. You could call it, “My Turning Point,” or “An Important Lesson I’ve Learned,” or you could call it a “LIFE STORY.”

The Life Story Project began as a speech assignment at Kookmin University in 2007. It was part of a required conversation course that all majors had to take, and I used the opportunity to give students a chance to practice speech writing and public speaking. Everybody has a story, but people often need to be encouraged to tell it. The Life Story Project is something I’m interested in because thinking about what we’ve learned and sharing it with others is a way to validate our own experience and help someone else at the same time.

The Life Story Project is a work in progress. These are some of the students who were there to start it. I hope to find many more who can keep it going and growing.

433S-2 Class