Friday, March 15, 2013

The Brain

A human brain and a half. 우웩! (oowek/yuck!)
I poked a human brain! That's something I never thought I'd do, especially after I finally decided that I wasn't going to pursue a career in medicine. But yesterday I had the good fortune of viewing a brain specimen in all its wrinkly, formaldehyde-y glory and touching its slimy gray matter (with a gloved finger, of course).

This brain (뇌/nwe) was put on display for the science high school students who visited the Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute for Science and Technology yesterday for their open house-slash-lecture series for Brain Awareness Week. Second- and third-year students at CSHS went on an afternoon field trip to attend three lectures by professors at DGIST and also get some information about applying to the school, which will be opening its doors to undergraduate applications starting this year.

I accompanied my students on their field trip, although in retrospect I'm not really sure what reason I had to be there. The lectures were in Korean, so while their content seemed interesting from what I could understand on the slides and videos, I hardly took anything from them. I guess I made for good company for my students. (I had actually assumed that my first-year students would also be going on the field trip, which was why I was willing to forego my afternoon classes with them yesterday; as it turns out, they stayed at school and I accidentally gave my co-teacher two extra classes to teach. Oops.)

In fact, I really enjoyed the company of my students. They seem to have warmed to me; I don't have to corner any of them to start a conversation anymore, because most of them will willingly speak to me about whatever is on their minds, or at least say hello, and we can go from there.

For example, a funny exchange between YJ, a third-year, and me:
Me: YJ, what did you think of the lecture?
YJ: Oh, so tired.
Me: Yeah, I was tired, too. Also, I couldn't understand the lecture because it was in Korean.
YJ: Yes, Teacher, you were sleeping.
Me: Oh no, did you see me fall asleep?
YJ: I was watching you.
Me: ಠ_ಠ

Anyway, YJ used to be very shy, but now, even if she doesn't know how to put what she wants to say into words, she'll try anyway. I can see that my students overall have gained a lot of confidence in their spoken English, and that's very important. I just have to nurture that, make sure they keep it up when they speak with strangers, and teach them interesting things to say.
학생들은 뇌를 궁금하게 검사해요. Some of my students examine the brain in curiosity.
That said, I got some interesting responses when I asked my students how they liked feeling the brain or what they thought of DGIST. Some of the female students I was waiting with were pretty ecstatic about touching the brain (they kept saying 재미있겠다! "This'll be fun!" over and over again), yet they also couldn't hide their disgust. When I jokingly suggested poking their finger deep between the lobes, they squealed and squirmed but grinned all the more. One student said the brain felt like those pre-packaged soup noodles you can get at the grocery store; just throw them in broth for some good 국수 (guksu).

As for this school, unfortunately, it seemed as if very few of my students intend to apply here. Although the D in DGIST stands for Daegu (대구), the campus is actually located in a rural area way outside of the city. It's pretty isolated, and also currently has no undergraduate student body, only graduate students. I think when my students envision finally going off to college, they see themselves somewhere a bit livelier than here.

I found it a bit strange that I was even talking to my students about college, though. They've been in high school for one year, yet they'll start applying to schools in just a few months. I've been teaching lessons based on the future and following one's 꿈 (ggum), or dreams, and invariably a topic that always comes up is one's 꿈 꾸던 학교 (ggum ggudeon hakgyo), or dream school. POSTECH, SNU, Yonsei, KAIST... my students are dreaming big. 화이팅!