I wanted to start a little series about the interesting things I’ve learned from my international office-mates. I would say “Chinese office-mates”, but we do have one Koren post-doc and who knows, we might get a few new students next year so I’ll keep it general.
For those of you that I’m already offending, please hear me out! Anyone who is in grad school, especially in the sciences/engineering knows that domestic students are a minority. Actually its more like an epidemic when you consider how few American students we’re actually educating. At our school (and I think this is pretty typical of most research schools) international students make up about 70-75% of the student body. In our research group, two of us are American and 6 are Chinese/Korean (including my boss) so we fit those statistics quite nicely.
Chinese is spoken in my office by default. For me, this should be a good thing since it should allow me to practice my Chinese, which I had almost all but forgotten, but more often than not this semester, its just made me angry. I’m not proud of this, but too many times this semester I’ve just been really upset about the lack of American students and upset at the fact that I can’t keep up with the conversation around me. I think it hit again this semester since we got three new Chinese students. And my boss is Chinese. Seriously? And somehow I am the one put in charge of organizing what few social events we have and making sure our group is cohesive. Again, not that I was justified, but the best way I can explain it is that I felt like I was a driver in a car full of a bunch of people sitting in the back seat talking with each other. Instead, I’d much rather enjoy driving the car if someone could sit up in the front seat and talk to me, you know? I guess as pathetic as it sounds I’d really like to just have a friend that I can commiserate with in my research group. One who doesn’t resort to another language for every conversation other than the ones that they need something from me.
Grad school is lonely enough already!
So now that I’m done wallowing (I wouldn’t be posting this if I was still there) I have realized that hey, as the senior student, if I make an effort at talking to people, they will talk back! Eventually. [I have to relearn this skill every semester apparently.] I really do learn a lot from my international office-mates and I would even venture to say we’re friends now. So my point is that I wanted to start writing these entries as a reminder of the good/funny/interesting/thought-provoking things that we talk about, so that next time one of these whining bouts start, I can re-read them as tell myself “See? Look at what a better person you’re becoming for having the work situation that you do!”
So for this week, here’s a few recent things I’ve learned:
- In Korea, Christmas is celebrated by going out to a club and dancing. Yeah, it sounds pretty much like a glorified/drunken Valentine’s Day where you get drunk and go on a blind date. More commercialized than in America. No family activities whatsoever.
- You don’t have to be Christian to celebrate Christmas in Korea either.
- One of the new students approached me the other day asking me where I got my wedding ring from. We had a talk about it and I asked him about how he’s going to propose. He said he’s going back over the winter break and doing it as soon as possible. I said “Oh, so she’ll move here?” and he answered “I hope so. My life here is miserable.” What a good reminder that I’m not the only one making the best of this situation. Some people have it much worse.
- Another office-mate married his wife and then 9 days later moved to America. She was only able to join him the following year.
That’s all for now. I’m sure I’ll have many, many more…