South Korean student grows in crisis

Updated: October 5, 2022

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Editor's Note: Kyung-hyun Youn is a South Korean student who enrolled in the program of Master of Teaching Chinese to Speakers of Other Languages (MTCSOL) at the School of Humanities at Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) in 2021. He was a winner of the International Chinese Language Teachers Scholarship. After obtaining his bachelor's degrees in chemical engineering and mathematics education in South Korea, Youn worked as a mathematics teacher in the country for two years. From 2019 to 2021, he attended the Chinese language course at the School of Humanities.

The start of a journey of Chinese learning

To experience a different lifestyle, Youn and his wife decided to study and live in Shanghai, a city that intrigued and excited them. Upon their arrival in August 2019, Youn was enrolled in the Chinese language learning program provided by the School of Humanities at SJTU. After a semester, the COVID-19 pandemic broke out and all courses were moved online. Youn didn’t want to interrupt his studies so he chose to stay in Shanghai. After learning the language for two years, he passed HSK level 6, the Chinese proficiency test’s highest-level.

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Kyung-hyun Youn attends the Chinese language learning program provided by the School of Humanities at SJTU. [Photo/SJTU]

Although Youn faced challenges during his time overseas, there were two things that made him happy. First, his wife was pregnant, and the arrival of the baby brought great joy to their lives. Second, he was enrolled as a MTCSOL student. Despite the hardships he may have encountered, it still meant a lot for Youn to attend the Chinese teaching program at one of China's first-class universities.

For Youn, the first year of his master’s program was the most challenging yet exciting. He gained many opportunities and grew through crisis.

Preparations for the teaching competition

After Youn started his postgraduate studies in September 2021, he signed up for the Sixth Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Shanghai MTCSOL Teaching Skills Competition, passed the inner-school evaluation and was selected as the only overseas student candidate to attend the competition on behalf of his school.

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Kyung-hyun Youn attends the Sixth Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Shanghai MTCSOL Teaching Skills Competition on behalf of the School of Humanities at SJTU. [Photo/SJTU]

During his preparation for the contest, teachers from the school provided him with careful guidance and suggestions. Youn constantly improved his PPT presentations, teaching structure, tone, expression and wording in trial lectures and made great progress. He also accepted and appreciated the assistance offered by his Chinese classmates Feng Ruoxi and Xie Wanting.

Youn gained in confidence throughout his one-month preparation and won second prize in the international student group. This competition also gave him a deeper understanding of teaching Chinese to speakers of other languages.

Receiving the most special gifts

Besides studying, Youn had to take care of his wife, accompany her to the hospital on a frequent basis and deal with other complicated affairs. His wife's due date was at the end of December 2021, when he had exams and paper submissions. He couldn’t hand in a paper on time as he stayed in the hospital with his wife. 

When he returned to school, Youn received gifts from his classmates. Youn recalled the hardship he had faced and was moved by the love and support given by his peers. They are among the most special gifts he has ever received.

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Kyung-hyun Youn receives gifts bought by his classmates. [Photo/SJTU]

To allow his wife to rest, Youn attended classes during the day, took care of his child at night, and often caught up on sleep on the shuttle bus. As Youn was preoccupied caring for his newborn baby, he could only do his homework and papers at night. For several months, he didn’t sleep well. It was very hard for him to stay up late to study and take care of the baby at the same time. Thinking of the gifts and support given to him by his classmates, Youn decided to go on. Without their encouragement and care, Youn and his wife might have returned to South Korea.

Reinforcing confidence in a future life

For Youn, languages not only convey information, but also carry the culture and stories of their respective countries. When he is asked about China, Youn will reply: "China is a country that helps each other through a crisis, through which it gradually gets stronger."

At present, Youn is preparing for the third semester of his postgraduate studies. Although the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has eased, other difficulties may arise at any time. Youn doesn’t worry too much, because he believes that any crisis will bring him new opportunities and growth.

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