First World Problems: We Take Everything for Granted


Youngjoo Ahn, Staff Writer

I realized that even something that I take for granted every single day, like the ability to speak English, can be a useful tool in helping someone else. I went to South Korea this summer and volunteered with my church to teach English in a small country town. I didn’t want to go on this trip, as selfish as that sounds. I wanted to spend the summer at the beach, attending concerts, and going to amusement parks. My parents decided that it would be a good opportunity since we were already going to Korea.

Two days of blissful touring and sightseeing ended when the first day of the actual program started. I didn’t know anything about the kids we would be teaching and mentoring for this week. I had been convinced to finally go with the promise of leading group of cute, innocent, and sweet kindergartners.

Luck was not on my side. I was the youngest staff member and I was already overwhelmed by the sight of 11 sixth graders crowding around me. It was a buzz of questions and excitement, with most of the conversations ending with some criticism of my height (I think I might have also been the shortest staff member.) As you can imagine, I was not happy for those first initial days. Nothing in the program was working out and the tension was like a maximum security prison. The only perk was the air conditioning, since this summer was the hottest summer in a 100 years. I wanted nothing more than to pack up my bags and go back home and spend a relaxing day at the beach.

My voice was almost gone by the third day, and anyone passing by my mess gave me a pitied look before quickly walking away, hoping that my group of kids hadn’t somehow influenced theirs. At one point I was compared to North Korea while the staff member with the other group of sixth graders were South Korea because I was so adamant about following rules, even the weird rules no one follows. However, by the end of the week, I found that I had earned their grudging respect. I was not to be messed with and that was probably the most satisfying way to end the week.

It was definitely one of the most challenging, yet rewarding weeks in my life. I learned that if you really want something, you have to work to get it. Not everything is like a restaurant where a nice waiter will ask you politely if you want your eggs sunny side up or poached. Not all people are fortunate enough to have the things we consider a necessity, like the iPhone 5. I would’ve been really sad to have spent my summer anywhere other than this small, undeveloped city. It really does pay off to help other people.