Monday, October 26, 2009

Four foreigners walk into a room....

I love to talk. I love conversations that begin at one end of the spectrum and after a roller coaster ride of engaging discussions finishes at the complete opposite end. When you become so involved with one topic which turns into six and then suddenly it ends with no one remembering how it began. So the other night, some of my friends and I were sitting around in my room. Our conversation was casual, talking first about our personalities. How I tend to be sarcastic and tease people, but in a good natured way. How my friend Robert and I agree that you shouldn't dish it out if you can take it.

When Josephine (my Chinese suite mate) joined in we started talking about what life is like in China. It was very eye opening, since she said that life in America must be better. There much more freedom to do what you want. How in the States you have the right to protest Obama on the National Mall is you feel the need to do so. However, do that in China and you’ll find yourself locked up in jail. She shared how her mom and dad work hard but don’t make the money they deserve and how so much of that money goes back to the government. This conversation made me truly appreciate what I have living in the States. However, I realize America is far from perfect.

We then moved on to talking about education. Again, Josephine shared how the Chinese educational system is rigorous, demanding extremely dedicated students. Education is valued therefore much emphasis is put on succeeding. Robert too shared his experience of education in Romania. What struck me most was the story of an American teacher who spent time teaching in Romania. What surprised this teacher was the dedication of his students. For example, they went out partying late one night but somehow they all managed to make it to class the next day. The teacher fully expected most of them to blow class off, as many of his former students would in the States. This teaching experience was so moving, during his end of the year speech he cried. What does this say about the emphasis put on education in the States? Unfortunately, it is easy to coast by through high school in the states and never really learn anything. I know plenty of people who barely made the grade in High School but still managed to walk down the aisle at graduation, diploma in hand. That being said, there are plenty of great things about the education system in the States. I went to a great high school and was privileged enough to have some dedicated teachers.

The topper to this whole conversation is the fact that we spoke English the entire time. A guy from Romania, a girl from China and two girls from America. Again I feel so privileged that English to some extent is universal language. That when I walk into the store praying someone knows English, my wishes 9 times out of 10 are answered. Not enough emphasis is put on learning a foreign language. I took French for years and while I could survive in Paris, I’ve lost most of it.

I can’t even imagine the challenge some of my classmates must go through on a daily basis. Trying to learn a foreign language in a foreign language. I am the only native English speaker in my Polish class and again it is a privilege to be taught in English. Most of the time the class is taught in Polish but when we are all sitting there with blank stares on our face, completely confused our Professor asks that daily question, Rozumiemy? (Do you understand) and when we clearly do not she switches to English to explain.


  1. I love talks like that, and I am so glad you're doing so well in Poland! I cannot wait for you to come back and teach us all some Polish ;)

  2. Rozumiemy? (Do you understand) This means, do we understand, this is an early post by you so I am sure that you know this now. Why did you hope that people would speak English in the supermarket? Wouldn't it be better if they didn't so that you could practice? I know that this would be hardcore but I am sure that you would have learnt what you needed to know not to starve.

    Maybe later you would have preferred if more people spoke to you in Polish rather than English when they realised that you weren't a native speaker?