Two weeks ago, I sent one of them a text message asking which university she would attend in March. She would not answer my question directly. She said it was “a secret,” and when I pushed her to explain, she told me she had not been accepted by the school she wanted to attend.
In the past, both in Korea and in the west, attending university was seen as a rare accomplishment. Parents would make great sacrifices, hoping that just one of their children might get a university education. Everyone knew about “big” vs. “small” schools, but most people believed that getting accepted by any school gave a person a chance to do something important and special with his life. Attending any university was a great mark of pride, and won a young person the respect of everyone around him.
Today, however, nations judge themselves by their university enrollment, and Korea is near the top. Merely getting into university is no longer special. And in Korea the desire for a degree from the “best” universities is extreme—so extreme that a bright girl with better English skills than most Korean university graduates is ashamed to tell her teacher which university she will attend.
From the way Koreans talk about these matters, one might assume that anyone who does not attend Seoul National University is a failure, or at least that he cannot hope for any significant achievements in life. Sadly, I have heard a lot of this attitude from CWNU students. Many students feel that this is a school for small dreams, small careers, and small lives. So perhaps I can give some perspective to our freshmen (and also to their seniors), by looking at some people who had very unimpressive academic careers.
Thomas Edison went to elementary school for exactly three months as a child. He learned basic language and math skills from his mother. Bill Gates attended Harvard—but he dropped out, and never finished his degree.
George Washington, the 1st president of the United States, never attended university. Ronald Reagan, the 40th president, had a B.A. from tiny Eureka College.
Jane Austen, the author of Pride and Prejudice, received about 18 months of formal education, between the ages of 7 and 11. Steven Spielberg, the most successful movie director in history, applied to the film school at the University of Southern California three times, and was rejected each time. Mother Teresa, winner of the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize, had no formal education.
Yes, there are many famous people who attended “major” universities, but that is not the only road to success. You are studying at CWNU. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. Use your university years wisely, and you can have a great life. Remember this: no one cares where Thomas Edison went to school.
by Daren Jonescu, Language Education Center
Daren Jonescu -
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