Category Archives: Work Life

Thank you (and some updates)

Thank you to everyone who wrote such supportive comments here in regards to the ridiculous “stereotype party” debacle that happened at the end of March. It really lifted me up at a time when I was feeling attacked for speaking out. This whole experience has reminded me of why I’ve enjoyed blogging these past two years (has it really been that long???). And special thanks to everyone here in Seattle and online who have been so encouraging and have listened to me vent. ๐Ÿ™‚

I have still not run into anyone who actually attended the party, nor have I seen any photos (although I did scour Facebook). Apparently, I share not one, but two classes this quarter with the party organizer! She has not come up to me, however, to discuss what happened, which is fine with me. However, I may be stuck in a group with her when my school hosts its annual series of “diversity discussion potlucks.” LOL. I can’t figure out if this is some sort of cruel punishment or an opportunity. Probably both. Maybe I can strip the veneer of politeness and disclaimers off at the potluck and say something more akin to what this blogger wrote over at Resist racism. Love it.

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My trip last month to Europe seemed to go by in the blink of an eye. It was really wonderful to spend time with some of my most favorite people in the world: Santoki, S-y, etc. The trip, however, was one of the roughest I’ve had in recent memory. It all started with me barely making it onto my international flight in SFO and my luggage not making it. Thus, I was in the Netherlands for a day without a change of clothes or any toiletries, resulting in massive sticker shock when I saw that deodorant and toothpaste were going to cost me 12 Euros. Also, during an official lunch in Paris with the Korean ambassador to France and other Important Types, I suddenly began to feel incredibly queasy–a feeling that did not subside the rest of the day during IKAA meetings. Basically, I had some sort of food poisoning, and later on at the hotel I got yet another reminder of why I could never be bulimic (I can’t stannnnnd vomiting). The next day, I came down with a massive head cold and spent the remainder of the week coughing and sneezing violently. We also had to deal with harsh weather the whole time—cold, rainy, windy. And nevermind that insufferable woman at the front desk of the La Louisiane Hotel! (S-y, I’m still laughing at K.H.’s reaction to my story.)

Luckily for me, though, I had wonderful friends and the most gracious hosts to take care of me. Amsterdam was smaller than I expected, and it reminded me of Boston–except with canals. It’s a very charming city, and I wish I’d had more time to explore. Arierang was kind enough to host a welcome dinner for myself and C. from New York on my first night in Amsterdam. I realized that I know many more Dutch Korean adoptees than I had thought!

The next day, we drove down to Paris and spent the rest of the weekend with the other members of the IKAA Gathering 2007 Planning Committee. Once the official business was over, I had a few days to do some extra sight-seeing, and during the interim when my stomach was recovered but my nose was still clear enough to taste food, I indulged in excellent baguette sandwiches and tried escargots for the first time. (And I finally made it inside the Musรฉe d’Orsay!)

Before I knew it, I was back on the train to the Netherlands and spent the remainder of the week in Utrecht and Amsterdam. I don’t regret making the trip at all—however, I had to spend a week recovering from my “vacation” once I got back to Seattle, which wasn’t the greatest way to kick off my final quarter of school.

This quarter, I am taking four classes:

  • 2nd-year, nonheritage Korean (this is the 6th quarter of UW Korean I’ve taken!)
  • Program Evaluation (public affairs course)
  • Grantwriting (only meets four times total)
  • Public Service Clinic

The latter is where I will finally complete my degree project–an applied research project that is not a traditional thesis but is still a massive headache. Last quarter I was torturing myself with the question of whether I made the right decision to choose to do a public service clinic rather than my own topic (which would have been related to the Korean adoptee community, naturally). At the time that I chose to do a clinic, I was still thinking that I would get a 2nd masters degree in International Studies, and I figured that I could do something adoptee-related with that degree. After mulling this over endlessly, however, I’ve come to the conclusion that I do not want to put myself through the UW’s MA in International Studies program, given that it is still not quite what I want to do. Ever since I started my MPA program at the Evans School, I’ve been starving for academic work that would feed my soul, not just fill my brain with practical skills. I’ve come to believe that the MPA degree is good as a complement to something else. It teaches you about practical matters such as statistics, budgeting, policy, etc. I do feel that if I eventually make the steps to start a new nonprofit that I have a decent background to do so. However, I am really wanting to focus more on issues that are personally important to me, e.g. the development of the Korean adoptee community, Asian American media representation, etc. Perhaps I will be able to feel fulfilled once I am out of the MPA program, but if something still feels lacking later on, perhaps I will make my way down to UCLA for their MA in Asian American Studies…… (I wish the UW had an MA in Asian American Studies…..they are in the process of developing a certificate program, but there is no word on when that will launch. If it does, UCLA may be permanently out of the picture.)

So even though my schedule seems deceptively open, the fact remains that I feel overwhelmed, mostly because I still have the majority of my degree project left to complete. I am locked into this topic, because the agency I’m doing the research for has agreed to pay the UW $1,000 for my troubles. No pressure! On top of this, my job at the Lindenberg Center has ramped up considerably this quarter, since we are having a 5th anniversary lecture series in May, and I also arranged to have Kim Park Nelson and Laura Briggs (both contributors to Outsiders Within) come to the UW on May 14 as part of a seminar on transnational adoption. And of course, there are my on-going commitments with AAAW, IKAA, etc.

Nevertheless, I think I have emerged from my “winter funk,” given that the weather has turned pleasant and I actually took the initiative to clean–both physical space (apartment) and e-space (email inboxes–what a mess!). I also started working out somewhat regularly again and have been eating better (much easier now that the 7-Eleven around the corner is closed). Now if I can just make it to graduation! My parents and some other extended family will be coming to Seattle for graduation festivities in June, and then my plan is to try to do some temp work for about a month. Then I will be helping with the KIDS Culture Camp during the week before I go to Korea in July. After summer traveling, I’ll come back to Seattle and attempt to find some kind of employment. In what? I don’t have anything specific in mind. Something that’s not soul-sucking but that still pays decently. I’ll have a better idea once September is here.

So I’ll be giving Seattle another chance. 3rd time’s the charm. I want to see what it’s like to live here as a regular, working person (my previous experience here has been limited to life as an AmeriCorps volunteer [no $$$] and a graduate student [no $$$ and also stressed out as all hell]). But before regular working life starts…….

Summer! And also pre-summer travel. Here’s the latest:

  • This weekend, April 13-15: Las Vegas for S.’s bachelorette party! (Weekend of firsts: my first trip to Vegas and my first bachelorette party where I think some sort of penis-like paraphernalia will be required when we go clubbing)
  • April 26-29: San Francisco for Korean adoptee mini-gathering
  • July 19-August 30: Korea
  • August 30-September 6: Hawaii!

Guess what I’m thinking about more: my degree project or the above?

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Filed under Community, Conferences, Korean Adoptees, Organizations, Pondering the Future, School Daze, Seattle, Traveling, Updates, Work Life

Three posts in one: My Korean name, School, Therestofmylife

(**Fair warning: The following is a long post. Feel free to skim or come back for repeated viewings at your leisure.)

Being in Seoul often feels like being strapped to a rollercoaster . . . the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, with unexpected turns that flip you upside-down and make your stomach drop. In stark contrast, being in Seattle for me feels much more like taking a carriage ride through a park. It’s slower here, and during the ride I feel safe, calm . . . and a little bit bored. Hmmm, but the leisurely pace of this ride is picking up as classes have started, and I seem to be oblivious to the fact that I’m taking 18 credits during this 10-week quarter.

I’ve especially noticed recently how quiet it is in Seattle, so there is nothing to drown out my thoughts. Even the UW campus has a laid-back feel (I think the massive trees and brick buildings seem to absorb a lot of the buzz and sound). My roommate went to a conference in Yakima (yeah, I have no idea where that is either) this week, so it’s been very quiet in our apartment. It’s a welcome respite, although I do miss hanging out on the 2nd floor of KoRoot, lounging and chatting with people.

During one of my visits with my family this summer, my ์™ธ์ˆ™๋ชจ (uncle’s wife) suddenly turned to me while we were eating lunch and asked, “How would you like to have a new Korean name?”

She said it so nonchalantly, but I was surprised she brought the subject up, because my Korean family generally calls me “Sarah” (although they sometimes refer to me as ํ˜„์•„ [Hyun Ah], but not often). My name had recently been a topic of conversation in our family, however, since it remains a mystery as to whether my Korean mother named me before taking me to Holt. Most likely, my name is from the people at the Holt Mapo Reception Center. I’ve never been especially attached to my Korean name of ํ˜„์•„, mostly because I have difficulty pronouncing it correctly (I usually have to say my name at least twice or three times to native Korean speakers before they understand). The “ํ˜„” is very breathy (you know, like “Hyundai”). Besides, for the first 21 years of my life, my American family and I pronounced my name as “ํœธ์•„” (Hyoon Ah), until B. visited and pointed out that “Hyoon” is not a name (or even a word) in Korean.

My sisters’ names are ๋ฏธ์„  (Mi Sun) and ๋ฏธํ˜œ (Mi Hye), so ์™ธ์ˆ™๋ชจ suggested a few “๋ฏธ” names for me. The one I liked the most was ๋ฏธ๋ž€ (Mi Ran or Mee Ran). The meaning of Korean names are derived from their ํ•œ์ž (Chinese) characters. There can be several meanings, but ์™ธ์ˆ™๋ชจ said that “๋ฏธ” = beauty, while “๋ž€” = orchid. “๋ž€” can also mean “loneliness,” but I’ll stick with “orchid.” I like this name, not only because it is much easier to pronounce, but it gives me some unity with my sisters.

Last year, my Korean language instructor called me ํ˜„์•„, so some of my classmates were confused when I introduced myself on the first day of 2nd-Year/Non-Heritage Korean class as ๋ฏธ๋ž€. Our current instructor is actually the head of the Korean language department (a brilliant, very non-traditional Korean woman), and she was puzzled when I said, “์ œ ๋ฏธ๊ตญ ์ด๋ฆ„์€ Sarah์—์š”. ๊ทธ๋Ÿฌ์ง€๋งŒ ์ €๋Š” ํ•œ๊ตญ ์ด๋ฆ„์€ ๋‘ ๊ฐœ ์žˆ์–ด์š”…..” (My American name is Sarah. But I have two Korean names…..) I then explained briefly in my awkward Korean about how ํ˜„์•„ is the name my adoption agency gave me, but ๋ฏธ๋ž€ is my Korean family name.

It’s been interesting having ๊น€์„ ์ƒ๋‹˜ call me ๋ฏธ๋ž€ the past two weeks. The process of adjusting to this name was similar to when my instructor began calling me ํ˜„์•„ regularly last year. At first, I have a delayed reaction, but gradually I’m beginning to feel a sense of ownership and recognition with my name.

I know many of you out there can relate to this. ๐Ÿ™‚

I’ve met many adoptees who have let go of their American names in order to reclaim Korean names, and I’ve also met adoptees who go by their Western name in their adoptive country but prefer to be called their Korean name while in Seoul. In my own case, I’ve always strongly identified with “Sarah,” and I still have a hard time imagining myself as anything but.

Although lately …….

I don’t know…..lately when I’ve been seeing my full name written out, even with the “Kim” squeezed in the middle, something seems missing. I’m not sure when I would go about trying to legally change everything, and I don’t know what sort of combination I would like…..

For now, I’m satisfied with the warm feeling that washes over me when ๊น€์„ ์ƒ๋‹˜ turns around and calls, “๋ฏธ๋ž€์”จ?”

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Here’s what I’m taking this quarter:

  1. Policy Analysis (3 credits, Evans core)
  2. Nonprofit Financial Management (3 credits, Gateway course)
  3. Mediation & Negotiation (3 credits, Evans elective)
  4. Education as a Moral Endeavor (3 credits, “Values” elective)
  5. 2nd-Year Korean (Non-Heritage) (5 credits, undergraduate course, doesn’t count towards my G.P.A.)
  6. Leading & Managing Groups (1 credit, Skills workshop)

Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? But I’m not pulling my hair out (yet), because #4 and #6 are just credit/no-credit (meaning that grades aren’t given out), #5 doesn’t affect my G.P.A., and #3 stops meeting after the first week of November. I really love #3, because my instructor is well-prepared and very entertaining. #2 is more like a necessary evil…..I didn’t overcome my fear of Excel spreadsheets in Budgeting last winter, so I decided to try tackling it again. I admitted this during our first class of #2, and the professor immediately began repeatedly using me as an example in class. #1 is a required course of all Evans students, and it is dreadful thus far.

I also have a work study graduate assistant position through the Marc Lindenberg Center, which is a research center at the Evans School focusing on humanitarian action, international development, and global citizenship. I’m glad to have this position, although I admit that this is more for my financial aid needs rather than career track, because int’l development is not my area of interest or expertise. I’m limited to working only 6-8 hours/week, but it should be interesting, because I’ll be helping them with MLC-sponsored events throughout the year, in addition to spending hours welcoming visitors to the MLC office.

My Tuesdays are really heinous, because I have #5 at 8:30 a.m., followed by #1, #2, and #3. I finish the day at 9:00 p.m. But I always seem to have at least one day like that during the week in every quarter at the UW.

Thus far, I’m still easing myself out of vacation-mode. It hasn’t occurred to me yet to stay in on a weekend night, and I’ve been slacking on reading and studying in general. Those of you who knew me back in the day would be amused/horrified. In Korean class, I regularly sit next to a sweet girl who was in my class last year and is a contemporary version of my former self. She’s always ultra-prepared, memorizes everything, and asks anal questions regarding assignments. Sometimes we partner up during class to practice dialogues, etc., and after she corrects me for the 2nd or 3rd time, I have to smile to myself and think, “Ahhh, youth. Where did my ambition go? Ah, yes, it’s probably hanging in the closet along with my white coat.” (med school reference)

Similarly, being a 2nd-year graduate student means I am much less anxious and more realistic about my studies. In our pass/fail, 1-credit leadership course, we were forced–I’m sorry, selected–into groups for a project. The only thing we need to complete is a presentation on a leadership book that we were assigned. I’m in the group with another 2nd-year Evans student, and the rest are 1st-years. The other 2nd-year student suggested that we divide the book into sections, we each read our designated section and report to the rest of the group. I chimed in my support for this fabulous idea. The 1st-years looked aghast, and one of them said, “Well, I think we should all be responsible for reading the entire book…..Even if we do split it up, I think I’ll go ahead and read the whole thing.” While the other 1st-years nodded their heads earnestly in agreement, the 2nd-year student and I just looked each other for a moment before breaking out into gales of laughter. (In reality, it was more like smirking at each other, but you get the drift.)

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What am I going to do after graduation in June? Well, I have a busy summer ahead (ahem, IKAA Gathering 2007). And then……..

???????

Since dropping out of med school, I’ve had a loose idea each year of what my next step would be. AmeriCorps……East Coast…..West Coast……Korea……grad school…… Even though I didn’t know exactly where I wanted to go and when, I at least had a pretty good idea and some gut instincts.

I feel a bit lost in this respect now.

The way I see it, I have basically two options: continue in school or get a job.

But the “continue in school” part is a bit tricky.

If I had unlimited money and unlimited time, I think I would just collect master degrees like Angelina collects third-world babies. I’ve actually been admitted to the UW Jackson School of International Studies. But I’m not sure a Master of Arts in International Studies (MAIS) is for me…….of course I’m interested in globalization and the theories behind it…..but do I want that to be a professional track for me?

I’m also drawn to getting a Master of Social Work (MSW) as well as an MA in Asian-American Studies. The UW does not offer the latter, unfortunately. I would have to go to California, most likely UCLA. And yes, UCLA does have that tempting MSW/MA 3-year program. But. It’s. Los. Angeles. Yuck.

(In my fantasies, I would also have time to get a Master in Arts Administration, but that’s completely out of the realm of reality here.)

Every professor I’ve spoken to in regards to my triple-master-degree plan has scoffed and said, “Why don’t you just get a PhD?” Of course, the people saying this to me have PhDs themselves. I just don’t see myself being so solitary and writing a dissertation. But lately I’ve been wondering if this indeed might be the best path for me.

Another thing I’m weighing is how long to stay in Seattle. Even though Seattle can bore me, I don’t think I’ve yet seen everything the city has to offer. I’m not quite ready to abandon the Pacific Northwest for California.

I know my parents are just waiting for me to get a “real” job. And truthfully, I’ve never been in a job that I was going to be at indefinitely……I’ve always had an “end date” looming on the horizon. An escape route.

People keep asking me, “So…..what do you want to do?”

“Marry a rich man/win the lottery and serve on volunteer boards?”

“Hahahaha! No, really, what do you want to do?”

“Errr….”

I know that I want to keep working with the Korean adoptee/international adoptee community. In what capacity? Well…..

I will be attending a research conference on transracial adoption in New York City next weekend. I’m hoping that can shed some light on my conundrum. Plus, I get to kick it w/ J.R. and K.P.N. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Filed under Musings, Pondering the Future, School Daze, Seattle, Updates, Work Life