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Self Evaluation and Reflection

haabibi's picture

             Among many options for Emily Balch Seminar, I chose the best three that interested me after collecting all the comments of upperclassmen on the class of 2019 Facebook group. And one of the comments said “Anne Dalke is one of the best professors I ever had. I don’t know if she would be teaching for the upcoming semester, but if she does, you should DEFINITELY take it.” Those capitalized letters unconsciously might have been imprinted on me, and “Chaning Our Story” taught by Anne was on my list without any further consideration.

             On the very first day of the class, I still remember vividly, an energetic white old lady came to the room telling the students to move all the chairs in a circle and to move around and write a paragraph about what we see around us. This was very unusual and unexpected, especially on the very first day of class, even before introducing ourselves to one another. Never having had a class in a circle in my entire life, I was very timid and worried at first; because being in a circle meant no way of getting out and no place to hide. But Anne’s vitality and the intellectually-driven discussions between thirteen girls made me to keep my place in the circle and absorb into the new world that I have never expected to encounter. At 12:45 on every Tuesday and Thursday, I ended up with learning something new or with a question to delve into for the next class. I have encountered the whole new concept of “play”, “slippage”, “racism”, “ecological intelligence” through various materials. And all these new concepts have intertwined and complexified within me, reflecting on my past and my identity.

          So for the whole semester, my identity has dynamically shifted and has been shaped malleably along with this course. And I am more than grateful for this course for providing a space for me to think about who I am as a Korean, as an international student, as a Bryn Mawr student, as a young adult, as a consumer and as one member of society. If it were not for this class, I would have remained very ignorant about what identities I have or should have in this new environment.

          Because of this class, I had the whole semester, ruminating over my identity as a minority and the complex world that we are living in, especially this Bryn Mawr college community, in which its long history has been shaped based on race and economic status. After knowing how Bryn Mawr was established at “Black at Bryn Mawr Tour”, I could have never felt more alienated to this community. As a child head of low-income family and as a yellow-skinned girl with imperfect English, I felt Bryn Mawr not as a place where I could settle in and make home for myself. When I could not express my opinions fully in the class, I felt sorry not for me, but for the other twelve girls, who could have had more fruitful debates and deeper discussions if there was another girl who could speak better English and have more diverse backgrounds and knowledge.

          So during the whole semester, I tried really hard not to be a nuisance to the class, and I thought there might be something that only I have and only I could bring into the classroom. I tried to bring up the experience I had in Korea and my identity that has been shaped so far. The more I tried to bring my unique identity into the classroom, whether it was spoken or not, the more I became susceptible to shape and develop my identity by having more space to relate the discussion and materials to real ‘ME’.

           Also my identity has been shaped as one member of a society. When I was in high school, I was a student activist. I believed any individual has capability of changing the world. But after encountering so many gun attacks in the U.S related to difference in skin colors and November 13th ISIS Paris attack related to difference in religion, I was utterly shattered and shed into tears. I could have never felt so enervated as an individual, especially after reading White Savior Industrial Complex, Take Back the Market, Sixth Extinction and The Collapse of Western Civilization. I became very skeptical seeing the world that we are living right now, and I regarded all the works of individuals who are working with the slightest hope of changing the world as futile. I, who once had a very ambitious dream of changing the world, especially for those of North Korean Defectors in Korea, went through maybe the most difficult time of the semester after having related discussions in our ESem class. Like this, ESem has really played an influential role in shifting and shaping my identity.

            But then, after reading all the materials about ecological intelligence, I started to see the world in a different way. The boundaries that have been blocking me to be acquainted with this community and people here started to vanish. I started to see hope in this ruthless and merciless society after listening and talking to twelve other girls in our class. I thought, because of these girls with bright, intellectual and empathic mind, the world is still capable of changing. If I have to choose one of the classmates that I’ve been learning from, I don’t think I can choose only one, but all. I have learned so much because of their insightful thoughts and remarks. Also their presence, the wholeness of fifteen people (including Anne and Aniya) gave me a solace because I know they will be listening to me.

             Looking back the whole semester, I remember how I really struggled so much, since writing three pages of paper every week came to me as a real burden. But I thank Anne for forcing me to keep on writing, because I now could see the noticeable improvement of my writing. It’s true that I have struggled a lot, but only joyful memories will remain that I would cherish forever and tell my friends in Korea: exploring the campus with the whole class by finding different places to have class every week, moving ourselves in barometer, having tested on our names till all of us memorize each others’ names, presenting six-week projects (especially in that Ball Room in the English House with desserts!), Beatrice reciting a poem for us, Anne playing piano before the class started in Pem West common room, me getting a compliment on my essay by anonymous online, and many more that will make me cry if I keep on listing.

             I really thank all the girls and Anne.

            Thank you for making a space for me to talk. That ESem class was the only place where I could share my thoughts and listen to others’ insightful and critical thoughts. Thank you for making me to enjoy writing. I really enjoyed writing my thoughts down and share them with others. Writing has become a new space for me to express myself and my identity. I want to continue writing and start sharing my thoughts on public by running my own blog.

            Once again, thank you all.

            And thank you, Abby, for surviving the first semester of college. You are worthy enough to make your home here at Bryn Mawr.