Tyler Rasch's Interview- Culture Donation
Tyler did an interview in October of 2014 about "donating culture." Basically, he taught the Korean audience (I'm assuming there's an audience) about the difference between America and Korea and answered questions about himself. Tyler is very good at talking and said lots of interesting and thoughtful things so I decided to write what he said. I think viewers of Abnormal Summit will learn a lot about Tyler and about how Tyler thinks.
The video of the interview is here:
Q: Please introduce yourself.
A: Hello, I am Tyler, the American representative in Abnormal Summit. I am studying International Relations at Seoul National University. I come from Vermont, a small state in America.
Q: What made you want to study Asian culture?
A: Language is what made me interested in Korean culture. My father actually immigrated to the U.S. from Austria. I was interested in languages, especially European languages, since I was young. Vermont is actually very close to Canada. Canadians speak English and French. In a city very close to where I live, people spoke French. I was interested in French and learned it. At my university, I wanted to learn more languages, like Spanish, German and Portuguese. Every term, I changed the language I was learning. Language is useful for learning so through language, I learned the country's culture, history, information, etc. If the language came from a country that was similar to the U.S., the country's culture and history are similar so when I was in university, I felt that learning those languages were banal. Since they're all similar, it is possible that they were uninteresting to me. I wanted to learn something new. I had a very close friend. That friend had a very similar background to mine. His father was born in the U.S., but his mother immigrated from Germany. That friend was learning Chinese. The friend told me that since learning European languages was not fun, I should learn something else, like Chinese.
It was summer vacation. In Korea, people go to after schools. In America, people don't really go to after schools so if you want to learn a language, you can't just go someplace to learn it. You have to buy books. However, there weren't a lot of good books. If you want to learn Chinese or Japanese, the written languages are very difficult. It's too difficult to learn by yourself, especially for Americans so Americans typically write Chinese or Japanese in English. You can't really learn a language that way. I found a Korean language book and looked at the written Korean. I thought, "I can learn this" so I bought it. Written Korean is easy to learn, not speaking Korean, that is very difficult. Learning to read Korean is very easy. It's very easy to get a taste of the language. That was very advantageous.
At the time, Youtube was getting popular. It was 2007. Lots of people looked up things on Youtube. I looked up things that I didn't know, like North Korea. If you look up North Korea, you find lots of information on the country, but actually there are a lot of political propaganda, lots of evil things. There are also many sad things. I thought, "There are things that I can learn in Korean that I can't learn in English." I felt that I could learn those things through Korean and continued to learn it. That aspect began to grow. Because of the division of Western countries and Asia, I didn't know much about North Korea. By learning in Korean, I could feel the cultural emotions behind the history. I wanted to learn about North Korea. The reason I became interested is because of the language.
Q: What is the motive behind foreigners studying abroad in Korea for making the webzine "Seoulism"?
A: It is true that the amount of foreigners living in Korea is increasing. However, there is still very few. Even though it feels like there are more foreigners, compared to other countries, there are very few. I can't say whether that is good or bad, but because of that, Koreans and foreigners don't have a lot of opportunities to communicate. For you, I don't know how many times you can meet a foreigner who can speak Korean after today, but there will be very few. It may not seem important in elementary, middle and high school, but in university, there are lots of foreign students. In Seoul National University for example, about 10% of students are from abroad. People from different countries live together, but if they don't understand each other, they may not get along. They may say bad things or misunderstand each other. That has to be resolved, but... in Seoul National University, and other Korean universities, they're all pretty much the same, foreigners and Koreans live in different buildings. If they live in different buildings, they can't play/hang out together. There is a distance between them. They only pass by each other and believe in things about each other that they hear, like prejudice.
In foreign countries, there are things that are said about Koreans like, "They smell like garlic. They smell like kimchi." However, that's not true. It's not true, but if foreigners and Koreans don't talk, then they don't know since they haven't experienced it. I felt that that foreigners and Koreans need a place to talk so we foreigners made a blog where we can write our Korean experience in Korean. Foreigners write what they want to say to Koreans on the blog. That became Seoulism. It was difficult to manage the blog, but it is still active.
(You can find the blog here: http://blog.naver.com/reemiri/220255534978 / Tyler is the editor-in-chief of Seoulism)
Q: Please tell us how your life has changed since Abnormal Summit started.
A: My life has changed a lot. I think seven episodes have aired? I don't know because we record two weeks before the episode airs. We filmed ten episodes. (Audience: Hong Suk Chun came out.) I think he came out in the 6th episode? I don't know. We filmed ten episodes. I don't know how much went on air. As the show continues to be broadcast, more people know about it and more people know about me. I can feel my life changing. Especially last week, the ratings were 5.1%. I heard that's very high. I can definitely feel the difference. I can't predict being recognized because on some days, many recognize me and on others, no one recognizes me. However, there are places where I am recognized. In cafes, when I sit near the door or windows, people recognize me more. Koreans usually study in libraries and such, but I study in cafes. I can concentrate when it's slightly noisy. In English, it's called... white noise. I used to study in cafes, but I can't do that anymore. I sit quietly while studying and people pass me by, but now someone will recognize me and ask if they can take a picture with me. Also, when I ride the subway... When I get asked to take a picture, it's not uncomfortable and I don't hate it. I like talking to people. It's hard to talk in Korea among strangers. Now that I have the opportunity, I'm thankful, but there are those days when I'm really tired from a long day and my dark circles come down to my cheeks and I get asked to take a picture. Or when I have to go someplace, but I get asked to take a picture... I want to take the picture, but I have to go. I can't tell the person that I can't take a picture and I can't be late so there is conflict about that these days.
I can feel my life changing when I get asked to take pictures or when my private space disappears little by little. (Audience: I think you became a celebrity.) No, I didn't become a celebrity, but people do recognize me. I have to adjust. As someone who lives here, I have to adjust to this environment. I am a student, first and foremost. I have adjusted to a studying environment. I have come out of that environment and am now someone who comes on T.V. That environment is different. I am adjusting to this new environment. It's hard.
Koreans watch a lot of American dramas, American movies and listen to American music. Those are active/stimulating, but... the same goes for Korean dramas. In Korean dramas, the characters are all handsome and pretty... the rich help the poor... stories like Cinderella aren't reality. They do seem like reality in Korean dramas. The same goes for American dramas. The characters are open, but the things that happen on T.V. don't happen in reality. In America, you can't ask a stranger their age or parents' occupations, if a female and male are together, you can't just ask, "Are you a couple?" That would be rude because they may be family, friends or coworkers... or a couple that has broken up and are remaining as friends. Since you don't know the situation, those questions may be rude so people don't ask those questions in American culture. However, in Korea, people want to become closer so they definitely ask each other those questions. I am trying to adjust to that.
Q: Please tell us your goal for being in Korea and if you have different future goals, please tell us those too.
A: I am currently going to grad school in Korea. I came here to learn Korean. The program (Abnormal Summit) that I am doing supports the government scholarship that I'm part of. Sam Okeyere was also part of this government expenditure. It's a very big scholarship program in Korea. There are undergraduate and graduate parts in the scholarship. Sam Okeyere was an undergraduate, but he has since graduated and is now doing the graduate version. For one year, you have to do a language training. I really wanted to learn Korean well so I believed that if I go to a language school for one year, I will speak Korean well and if I go to a Korean university, I believed I can learn Korean like a Korean. I didn't know if I would be able to graduate so I didn't exactly make that my goal. I just wanted to learn Korean deeply. I think I learned Korean well and I am nearing my graduation date. I want to graduate and afterwards, I really don't know. There are many opportunities for foreigners who can speak Korean. I have to ask, "Why are there many opportunities?" There is a difference between foreigners and Koreans... for example, Koreans believe that if they can, they have to get into Seoul National University or work for a big corporation. They think about the future. Of course, we should, but Koreans think that thinking about the future is the best thing you can do. They like to "see" success, to have it laid out. However, Koreans feel oppressed...themselves and their families so they think that they have to go a certain road.
Foreigners don't have that kind of expectation, that kind of certainty. If I graduate from SNU with a degree in International Relations and decide to become an author, I can do that. There is no one road that I have to take. There is no reason for me to go crazy over that and I can think, relaxed, "What do I want to do?" I can find passion and do what I want to do. Koreans feel oppressed because they think about that one road even though they want to do something else and they choose the more realistic road. There are many roads, but they think that there's only one road so they're all trying to go on that road. There are many empty roads. You can think about your dreams and if you hear that your dreams may not come true, you can try to think of ways to make it come true. I think it's very important to think in that way.
Q: What are Korea's charms from a foreigner's perspective?
A: When I first came here, everything was new and sparkly so everything had charms. It's not true that everything has charm anywhere in the world. Everything was new so everything had charms. However, now that I've gotten used to it, it's not new anymore and I see Korea for how it actually is. I am learning about things that are truly charming. I really believe that there are many opportunities here and I really like that about Korea. There are many things that people haven't tried yet so there is so much potential. That is very charming. There are many ways to pioneer. There are many opportunities so that is very charming.
Korean food really suits my taste. (Talks about different kinds of Korean food.) Korean food is very natural- more people go to fast food restaurants or buy convenience store foods and that is a bit regretful. When I first came to Korea, I thought having convenience stores everywhere was the charm. However, I don't really think so anymore. In Korea, you can find bibimbap (mixed rice w/ vegetables or other food) easily. In America, there isn't a lot of food healthy and delicious at the same time. There is a term called, "Food desert" lately. Food deserts are places where it is impossible to find healthy food. In places where crime rates are high, people don't want to own a supermarket because of thievery. That's why people don't invest in supermarkets. You can't find fresh food. That's why obesity became a big problem. Health problems are also a big problem. Those problems do not exist in Korea yet. There are many supermarkets here. That's what I find really charming. I like that Korea is technologically modernized, enough to rival America, but supermarkets and such (things that seem simple) still exist.
Q: What are misunderstandings that Koreans have against Americans?
A: There are many prejudices. In Korea, there are many provinces. There is one law system in Korea. Everyone has to follow the same rules, all students must learn the same thing and all students must take the same college entrance exam. Let's say for example, since Gyeongido and Seoul are very different they have different laws. The people of Gyeongido chooses the material that they want their students to learn and the same goes for Seoul. Gyeongido people have strong faith and choose not to teach evolution. Instead of evolution, they decide to teach creationism. Even if the people of Seoul disagree, they can't do anything about it. In Seoul, students learn evolution. After learning separately throughout elementary to high school, they go to college together. Gyeongido people and Seoul people are in a biology class together, but some don't know what evolution is and have strong faith in religion and the others know what evolution is. These different types of people need to get along. That's the reality of America. In Vermont, evolution is taught. However, anything related to religion cannot be taught. Another state has its own state laws so it may teach creationism instead of evolution. In college actually, I was taking biology and the person next to me didn't know what evolution was. Very surprisingly, the person kept talking about creationism. I thought that evolution was definitely true. We started debating between evolution and creationism.
Koreans believe that English is the official language of America. It is true that English is widely spoken. However, there is no official language according to law. The federal government has no right to choose the language that the people must speak. Those are some misunderstandings.
Q: Do you have any plans to go back to America after you graduate?
A: I miss my hometown. Going back to America does not mean going back to my hometown. In Korea, almost every company's headquarters are in Seoul. Every type of work field is in Korea. If you want to go on broadcast, you have to be in Seoul. If you want to do music, you have to be in Seoul. If you want to learn English, you have to be in Seoul. That's not the case in America. If you want to be in movies, you have to go to Los Angeles. If you want to do banking, you have to go to New York. If you want to be in the arts, go to NY. If you want to learn science, you should go to Boston. If you want to do diplomacy, go to Washington D.C. They're all different. Going back to America doesn't mean going back to my hometown so I am thinking about staying in Korea. My parents live in my hometown, but if I go back... I have to live in NY, Los Angeles, Chicago, etc. I have to take a plane back to America, but it won't be my hometown. I can only go to my hometown during the holidays. The only difference between staying in Korea or going to America is the price of the plane ticket If I have the opportunity, I am thinking about staying in Korea and my parents feel the same. Networking is very important in America to find a job and I first need to find a job to know where I'm going to live. I've lived in Korea for 3 years so all the networking that I had disappeared. If I go back, I have to start from the bottom. If I go back, I am going to look for a job for at least 6 months to a year. If I stay in Korea, I only need 1-2 months. I can't start immediately, but I can find a job. I am thinking a lot about staying in Korea. However, it's very difficult to choose what kind of job I will do in Korea. I do not think of myself as an entertainer, only as a student who is going on broadcasts. I keep an open mind about becoming a broadcaster, but if I become one, will I be able to do the work that I want to do? Those types of thoughts cross my mind. I want to do work for the public and I want to do work that requires me to use my brain a lot. I'm not sure. If I come across a great opportunity, I will let you know.
Q: What was your childhood dream?
A: My dreams kept changing. What I was really young, I liked dinosaurs so I wanted to become a paleontologist. In high school, I loved music so I wanted to become a conductor. Later, I liked acting so I wanted to become an actor. It became time for me to apply to college and by that time, I already convinced by parents that I will work in the music field and I had CD's and stuff to apply to jobs in that field. However, I suddenly did not want to go to a music college because I will only be allowed to do music. I wanted to learn languages. A college representative came to my high school- America has a system where college representatives go to different high schools and promote their college. A representative from Chicago University came to my high school and gave me a pamphlet about the school. I didn't know what Chicago University was. I thought it wasn't a good school. The list of languages in the pamphlet was very long. (List of languages.) I liked that there was a variety of things I can choose. If I go to that school, I didn't have to do only one thing, I can do anything I had an interest in so that's why I chose to apply. My dreams kept changing so I wanted the opportunity to be able to choose what I wanted to learn as my dreams change. In college, I wanted to become a diplomat. (Talks about process of applying, including interview.) I went through the process and was given my grade, which was too low. I went through another dream, but I gave up on that too. I really don't know what I want to do now. Dreaming is what I want to do- not a job, what I want to do as I live.
In America, if you move, you should give your new neighbors cookies. The cookies are given to the new neighbors on a dish. When the neighbors return the dish, there should be food that's more delicious than the cookies on the dish. I want to live like that. I was given cookies so until I die, I have to give others things more delicious than cookies. I was born into a good world. However, I want to make the world better. I want to do the type of work that will benefit others. No matter what I do, if I do that, I will live happily.
Q: Do you have your own tricks to learning?
A: Since I received education in America, I don't know if this will fit Koreans well because they receive education in Korea. However, no matter where you study, I think having interest and passion are very important. For example, if you want to learn math and you think math is boring, it will be hard to solve math problems. You can also hate some parts and like other parts of something. For example, you want to study history, but you don't think one time period is interesting so you don't want to learn about that time period. You should change how you think. You don't need to like everything, but you should find something about it that you like. If you like a portion, you will find ways to like the other portions. For example, you can think, "If I get through this, I can do the things that I like." Let's say you want to do math. Some problems are not fun and others are fun to do because you're good at solving those problems. You can change the order in which you do the problems and get through the hard problems first so that you can give yourself a "present" later by doing the problems you like last. If you work that way, you will feel better. I think learning like that is the right way. If I want to memorize vocabulary, I memorize the hardest words first and leave the words I'll have fun learning last. That's how our brain/mentality works. We don't remember the beginning, but we remember the end. We have to use that. If the end isn't good, that's the part that we remember. We should study by studying hard things in the beginning and studying easy things last. That way, you can feel that you're doing a great job studying. (Audience: Did you do that since you were young?) No, I started doing that as I kept studying and learning. I didn't like studying. I really hated reading books when I was young. In high school and college, you start to read more news and you have to read books. I left the books I really wanted to read for last and it just naturally started. It really works for me. If you haven't done it, I think studying/reading/etc in this way is good.
In middle school and high school... I really liked writing, but there were writing classes that I did horribly in. In middle school, I learned things like spelling and grammar. I was horrible in spelling because English spelling is very difficult. There is no spelling rule. That was very difficult for me. During parent-teacher conferences, my teachers said often that I have to work on spelling. There is a disorder called dyslexia. Since I was so bad at spelling and I read very slowly, my teacher wondered if I had dyslexia. I did a test to see if I have it and I don't. That's how bad I was at spelling. My teacher thought I needed to have extra education. I really hated spelling. During junior and senior year or high school... the essay is one of the most important parts of the college application. You have to write creatively. I wrote so many creative things and I suddenly started to like doing that. During those years, I was good at spelling and such because I started to like it. I was always good at learning languages so I was good at that, but I did not like spelling or math, things like that.