For various reasons my college has a high percentage of female students. However, we also have a high percentage of male students who have completed their mandatory South Korean military service.
This doesn’t really change things for me too much as a teacher, other than the fact that I have a very strange mix of incredibly mature, diligent, male students in their mid- to late-20’s along with a pack of 19-20 year-old knuckle-heads who can’t be bothered to make any effort. Even showing up for class is a common problem for many of the latter.
So the maturity gap, so to speak, isn’t that hard to understand. The young guys are probably still living at home for the most part, while the slightly older students have at least travelled in the country a bit and, from what I’ve been told, had their asses kicked a few times both figuratively and literally. Military training here is no joke. (But if they’re not married they probably still live at home as well — that’s Korea for you.)
Today I found out that a student who comes regularly to my office hours to practice his speaking wasn’t just in the army, but a sergeant in the South Korean special forces. He’s not a small guy by any means but if you saw him on the street you definitely wouldn’t think “trained killer.” He’s SCUBA certified. And he’s done over a hundred parachute jumps but almost fractured his spine on the last one. Hence, he’s now a college student who’d like to travel and possibly work abroad in America or Australia rather than working his way up the officer ladder.
Teachers should always try to avoid making assumptions about their students’ backgrounds but I know I’m guilty of it more often than not. But after today I really need to stop doing it.
Granted, they make all kinds of strange assumptions about me, the foreigner, but I’m being paid to be the adult. Supposedly.