About a month ago, an old student of mine sent me an unexpected e-mail. She reminded me that she took my course last winter, right before the COVID outbreak, and that the conversations we had in-between classes inspired her to achieve her goals: to be admitted into Law School.
To share a bit more about the e-mail, she talked about how she was worried about her individual grades, assignments, and the exams that unfolded before her during the last few semesters of college life. But, what I told her then seems to ring a bell in our lives today: “don’t be preoccupied by the little things, move ahead towards a bigger goal.”
This is something I always tell my students in my College/Advanced English courses, when they ask about the smallest details in a sentence midst 10 to 20-paragraph long article. Those details might be important in understanding the main argument of the text, but most of the time they are something you can just brush off. Sometimes it is more important to take a step back from the individual words or sentences, and look at the big picture. Being able to see the big flow of the text gives you a better understanding of why the argument unfolds the way it does in a text. Yet, students tend to focus on every single detail worrying about what “tricks” professors might play in the assignments and exams they give. But it’s something that I advise students to relax about.
With the outbreak of COVID, everything in our lives have changed. Just stepping outside our homes requires us to wear a mask, students cannot go to school freely, people cannot go to work, and most of all, we cannot meet our friends and family outside the safety of our homes. The pandemic has lasted longer than anticipated, and everyone gradually grew tired of the changes that has been brought upon our lives. With everyone on edge, people become more impatient by the situation they are put in. In case of students, they do their best as always, yet, they see discouraging future before them. But going back to looking at the big picture and the advice that I gave my old student, the same attitude is required about life in general these days. It is inevitable to wear a mask on a daily basis, attend college courses on Zoom, and keep social distancing. These are details that are given to us at this very moment. Since we cannot avoid these small details, why not have some flexibility in how we deal with them?
At this point, you might think, “it’s easy for you to say,” and sneer at me for saying something a bit obvious. Yet, this is something that is easy to say, but difficult to put into action. For students who are coming back to Ewha, this is the third semester where courses are taught online. What you might want to focus on is what you can take from the individual courses you take in the long run. Of course, assignments and exams are important. Getting a job after graduation is important. But it is also important for you to enjoy the process of reaching your goals. Again, you lead your life, so make sure you know where you’re going towards. And for those starting a new life at Ewha, this is the beginning of a life where you decide what you want to do. Don’t just look at what you need to at this very moment. Take a break at times to see what’s around you. See if you like what you are painting for your life. And of course, have fun!
A little flexibility in grave times like today could take you a long way. Try to enjoy every step of the way and find out what new things you can learn along the way.