Last year after participating in the speaking contest we were asked if we had faced some particular problems that we had to overcome during our Korean studies. Back then I didn’t really have a good answer to that since my biggest problem up to that point had been limited to “this video is not available in your region”, which sure is a hassle (Viki, I’m looking at you), but it’s hardly a linguistic problem.
My Korean has been stalling for a while now, though, so I have been thinking about that question a lot lately. Basically, my main problem has been fitting everything into my days. I wake up at about 5:15 in order to go to work and to be quite honest, I’m not a morning person so getting up an hour before to study will just reduce me to a zombie shaking from caffeine (ab)use by 9 am by the third day of such a routine. On my way to work I usually listen to Korean music or something similar, though. My working days tend to be on the longer end of the scale (my own choice since it’s a new working place, I have a lot to learn, and they should get to know me properly before I graduate) and I also have to study for my exams. By the time I’m finally at home, done with practical stuff and dinner, time is usually pretty tight before I should head off to bed in order to survive the following day without nurturing dark circles that would make a panda green with envy.
However, maybe there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Some time ago someone from my family actually pulled me aside to ask me if I was happy doing what I was doing. I adamantly agreed that I was. The reaction was to ask why I then looked so exhausted…
I really do like my work and my studies – trust me I really do – or I would have greater problems than merely being busy since I would be busy doing something I didn’t actually like. That being said, maybe I could use just a bit more balance. Studying Korean makes me happy, and that in turn makes me more efficient and in general nicer to be around in other parts of my life too. Including work and uni.
Now that I have settled in more at work, they know me, and I know my way around things, I will try to leave a bit earlier some days so I have time to put in an hour of Korean at night without compromising my sleep. Naturally, if something pressing comes up I won’t be marching out of the office leaving others to fend for themselves, but it seems a bit sad that it took catching a flu and running a fever high enough to warrant two sick days before being able to watch a few episodes of 힐러.
In a way it’s a bit of a vicious circle. On the one hand you feel like you have so much revising to do since you’ve been away from it that it becomes a daunting task to just sit down with the books and just get on with it – and then fatigue becomes an excuse that’s really hard to overcome. On the other, the more you put it off, the more you miss it, and eventually it ends up affecting other parts of your life.
Somehow it seems easy to neglect a hobby. After all it’s just that – a hobby. Studying Korean not what I do for a living and there is no clear link between me putting in an hour of Korean and subsequently doing better at work or in my law studies. That can make it a tad difficult to defend as a valuable pass-time. After all, if there is a decent pipeline at work, a uni report to write, and verdicts to read, what the heck am I doing setting a somewhat arbitrary time for being my time “off” and then spending my time being mentally in Korea???
However, it’s also the Korean studies people ask me about even in work settings once they find out about it. Whether it’s a curious HR person or a superior at work who suddenly shares stories about having studied Mandarin during an exchange program; it’s something that people find interesting even if it’s sometimes a bit strange to them – because it’s a quirk that says something about me as a person.
So I guess that’s been my biggest problem to overcome in my Korean studies. Having to be away from it and finding my way back – sometimes forced away by other and truly more important events, but mostly by limitations that I have imposed on myself because after all – it’s just a hobby. Right? Maybe not…