Getting My Learn On

USA 1988-90

I progressed through the Asian Studies/Korean program without much issue, and without much challenge. I got one grade below "A" and that was in Korean History. My research paper really sucked and that brought my grade down. I was supposed to take a position on whether or not US Forces should remain in Korea and I waffled back and forth through the paper without ever really taking a side. Grade for the course: "B." That was the only chink in my GPA armour until the spring term of 1990.

In the spring of 1990 I met with the graduation counselor and all was set for me to march into commencement with my double major. There was, however, the problem of Anthropology 400-something. It was a cultural anthropology class focusing on Asia. One day per week we met in a large auditorium for lecture-style learning generally, and twice a week we broke out into smaller groups by country of interest. I was in the Korean breakout with 8 or 9 others. It was a fun group, a diverse group, and we really got into the guts of Korea. I liked it a lot. I had a solid rapport with the teacher and was tops in the Korean section.

The problem was that we had to deliver a 20-page Ethnography by the end of the term. That involved many long conversations with Koreans focusing on some aspect of culture we wanted to study. I could not bring myself to do it. Just couldn't even start it. It was not going to happen.

I came up with the genius workaround to see if the department chairman would let me count another course instead of Anthropology and still graduate on time with the double major. He looked at me like I was from outer space that day. It was not a fun meeting. He went so far as to tell me the graduation counselor had miscounted (double-counted) my credits and I was not even close to the double major I was already counting the chickens of. I could still get the Korean degree but could only get the Asian Studies minor. While that was not the news I had hoped for, it certainly made my decision much easier on what to do about the dreaded Ethnography. Correct, I bagged it entirely. If I had simply done the Ethnography, even a shitty job of one, I would have that double major today.

I continued to attend the Korea breakout twice per week, but took no tests and didn't lift a finger on the Ethnography. The instructor, thinking he was doing me a favor, offered to give me and Incomplete on it so I could finish it over the summer, but I quickly disabused him of any such notion.

I graduated in the spring of 1990 with no real plans and only a couple of job interviews where I could use my Korean. There was an opportunity that summer that intrigued me. The instructor of the Korean Anthropology breakout was leading a group to Korea for 90 days to conduct cultural anthropology research. The whole thing was paid for (funded by some Korean conglomerate heir or something) but he could only take 3 students. I applied. I applied even though I had basically failed out of his course because I refused to do an ethnography. I applied to get paid to go to Korea and do an ethnography even though I refused to do one for free in college.

Of course I was accepted and we started making plans for the trip...

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