Campus Scavenger Hunt 2012 Part 1

Posted on November 5, 2012 in ESL, International Spouses, Notre Dame Campus, Uncategorized by Mary Anderson

You’re from . . . [Russia, China, Iran, Korea, Mali, Spain, Chile, Japan, Armenia, Cameroon, or Taiwan], and today is your first day in the United States, in South Bend, Indiana, and on the beautiful campus of the University of Notre Dame.

You’ve joined ISSA’s ESL class to learn English and meet friends.   It’s your first class, and you’re receiving your first English assignment.  And what is your first assignment – a Scavenger Hunt for Notre Dame’s campus.  Not only do we have to find campus landmarks, we also have to request the signatures of the ND students who will help us find our landmarks!  Oh, the agony of having to speak English with strangers!!  But our class banded together and off we went, cameras, assignment sheet, dictionaries and maps in hand.  We walked, we talked, we asked directions, we snapped lots of photos –- and we not only became acquainted with the campus, we also became friends!

Here are some of our photos and comments from the members of Dr. Beverly Wills’ Developing ESL Class.


Asaka Tanaka – Japan

Here I am, doing the “Heart Gesture” with my fellow ESL friends in front of the Rolfs Sports Recreation Center.  We had just finished scavenger hunting, and we were expressing our happiness with our “Heart Gesture”.  Everybody, exercise in Notre Dame’s Rolfs Sports Recreation Center – it’s terrific!


Chen-Hsuan Wu – Taiwan

How about take a rest!  Reading a book or having a cup of coffee, chatting with friends outside the Hammes Bookstores is always the best choice!

Chen Hsuan and her friends


Christiane Badaro – Brazil

If you have any questions about crime prevention and safety, go to the Notre Dame Security Police Office; they will answer all questions. My friends and I received important tips there. The slogan is “Crime Prevention Begins with You!”

Christiane and her Friends Getting Tips in the ND Security Police Office


Dania Di Cosmo Hidalgo – Chile

In this photo we are Consuelo, Shruthi, me and Francisca. We are at the main desk in the building Rolfs Sports Recreation Center; this is a great place for exercise and recreation daily. For example, the center has different types of exercise machines and an indoor track for running (great for rainy days or snow). Best of all: with your IDcard of Student Spouse you can access free!!

Mi~Dania And New Friends In A Good Place To Break The Routine

Hyun Jung Hwang –  South Korea

The Hesburgh Library mural is known as “Touchdown Jesus”, and it faces the football stadium. In this 14-story building, you can not only study and borrow books but you can also find nice people who are eager to help you find what you want.

The Hesburgh Library

Joanna Grodzka – Poland

After her arrival in South Bend mid-August, the University of Notre Dame was delighted to have Joanna explore the charming alleys and courtyards of the main campus by bike. A professional ND photographer was right on the spot to capture these historical moments with his camera. Here, he perpetuated Joanna in front of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, the heart of Notre Dame academic life.

Notre Dame Welcomes Joanna to its Cyclist Team


Kimiko Mimoto – Japan

In the Center for Social Concerns, we can study and enjoy complimentary coffee! We will go to such a nice place and do our assignments!

Kimiko and Glorious Fellows at the Center for Social Concerns 

Mashid Mosavat – Iran

I learned some facts about the Golden Dome; the Dome has been made of real gold.  OMG!

The Scavenger Hunters Find Gold!

Najmeh Khalili – Iran

My friends, Mi-Jung, Darmin, Hyun Jin, Christiane and I were looking for someone to take a photo of us after visiting the Saint Liam Hall Office in Notre Dame. We were waiting to see somebody enter or exit from the office! But nobody was there!! Finally, Christiane kindly took a photo of us.

Naji and her friends in front of Saint Liam Hall, ND

Vale Carreño – Chile

This is the place where people get in shape…. Or at least it smelled like it.  After taking the picture, I changed clothes and I did some rounds on the third-floor track.

Vale Goes to the Gym

Yanna Xie – China

This photo was taken in the library office of University of ND on September 12, 2012.  Kimiko Mimoto, Asaka Tanaka, Yeter Büyükkafadar Aydoğmuş, Chen-Husan Wu, Hu-Jung and I are In this photo.  I think that it’s the best one of our scavenger hunt photos, because it was the first photo we took that day.



Shruthi Seethapura – India

Shruthi asked this Notre Dame police officer, “Can I stand with you?”  He asked her, “You with me!!!!!!!!!!!!! How dare you!” 😉


 Julio Benvenuto – Uruguay

I am traveling through the Notre Dame labyrinth with an excellent team: Shan Shan, Fafa, Mahshid and Valentine. In this photograph you will see Mahshid,Valentine and Julio (It is not necessary to explain who is Julio). We interrupted the office routine. While we were opening our eyes, the receptionist closed her eyes. Finally, we were able to see, on the wall, an excellent phrase: “Our campus is in South Bend, Indiana, our classroom is the world- Rev. Edward A. Malloy C.S.C.”   Deep wisdom in few words.

The Only Male Classmate


Me Talk Pretty One Day

Posted on May 16, 2012 in ESL, International Spouses, Living Abroad by Mary Anderson

This is the final posting for this academic year.  This spring, we read David Sedaris’s essay Me Talk Pretty One Day and listened to episode 165 of This American Life.  The essay discusses David Sedaris’s  French classes in Paris, and the episode of This American Life discusses his experience living in Paris and his frustrations interacting in a culture where the language is not his first language or one he has completely mastered.  The class reflected on their experience living in another culture and studying English.  Here are some of their reflections.

Heajin Cho

Living as a Foreigner

Leaving my country, family, friends and job and living as a foreigner in another country gives you an opportunity to explore a bigger world and to look at life from a different angle. When I was in Korea, I did not have a chance to appreciate little things. I was busy working all day, attending wedding ceremonies and meeting friends. There was no time to think about life, and I just repeated a routine. Everything I did was just normal and everything I had was something I took for granted. As soon as I moved to the States, I found myself in a whole different position in the community. I did not speak the language. I had no job. There were no friends and family who would support me if I were in trouble. I became one of the social   minorities whereas I was in the mainstream back home.

If there is a language barrier, it is pretty difficult making friends unless both sides are foreigners. Some people just would not bother to make foreign friends because they are not patient enough or because they think it is not worth it. Once, I attended a barbeque party to get acquainted with my husband’s classmates and their families. I remember I was always stuck to my husband like glue so that I would not feel left out. I had to mingle with people I met for the first time. Some people were very kind, and they asked questions about my husband and me. Some, however, did not say a word even though we were standing right next to them. I felt I became an unwelcome guest even though they did not mean it. Then I asked myself ‘If I had white skin, blond hair and blue eyes or if I were a native English speaker, would more people have talked to me?’ It also made me think how I treated people who are minorities in my country in the past and how I should treat them in the future.

On the other hand, little things around me started to be valuable in life. I started to hear the sound of birds and see the color of the sky and leaves of the trees. I never really had a chance to appreciate nature when my life was like a rat race. I was finally able to breathe and admire things around me. When I compare life here with my busy life back home, I realize that the purpose of life is quite different. The life I have here is definitely not money oriented. That is because I do not have to be competitive to make more money, or I do not spend most of the day in the office. Though the fact that I do not have a job here makes me helpless, it enables me to have time and energy to think about more important values that I have forgotten for a while.

Being away from my home country and living as a foreigner certainly makes me humble. Compared to life where I have a safe job, close family and friends that I can rely on, there is not much I can do here in a foreign country. Humble life experiences have changed my perspective on minorities in my country. I think I will be able to treat social minorities with respect after I go back to my country because I have been in their shoes. Besides, my experiences as a minority allowed me to appreciate small things around me. I am certain that life can be more valuable and fun if I value small things and do not take them for granted.


Han Dou

I quite understand David Sedaris saying that being a foreigner is the lowest life form and I partly agree with it. I have stayed in US for more than one year, and sometimes I cannot help thinking that way. As a foreigner who has little knowledge about American life, it is hard to avoid frustration and upset.

Language is one of my biggest problems. I was not aware that I needed to talk so often in daily life until I came to US.  I used to chat with grocery workers, argue with bank clerks or complain to customer support at any time if necessary in Beijing. However, now I feel nervous before I open my mouth, and it becomes worse when I start to listen to someone speaking rapidly. Sometimes communication for me is both a task I have to finish and a test with score, and the results are never satisfying.

Coming from a developing country, I guessed that American life would be more comfortable, and at least no worse. It turns out it is not true if you don’t own a car, or have no idea about housework skills. Without a car, it means no shopping, no chance to take a look around the city and no ability to deal with any emergency. Once I had to go to get fingerprinted in Michigan City by public transportation, I took 4 hours one-way, whereas it would have been only 40 minutes by car. In China I used to take the subway or taxi to work and home, have dinner in a restaurant or at my parents’ house. Both ways were very easy, fast and affordable, while these are impossible here. I started to learn driving, cooking and crocheting. Gradually, I dared to try unknown vegetables in the market, cut trousers that are too long for me, and love driving with a GPS.

Culture was only a concept for me in the past, yet now I know it is not only about art, novels and history, but also the TV shows my classmates watched yesterday, the pop stars / presidential candidates people like, and even the jokes friends play with each other. I still get confused and feel like a caveman frequently when chatting. I feel more relaxed while watching news or movie in Chinese, but then I wonder “is it good for me?” It seems I lost confidence for everything- arguing, working, and now, even enjoying my leisure time.

There are many aspects that can describe my status, and it is definitely not the sweetest time in my life. However, I am indeed excited when I try something new, venture to a strange place, and learn the lifestyle I never expected. Although it is as if I suddenly lost some common knowledge I mastered before I was 15-years-old, I take some pleasure in learning it again to survive. I would like to say that living in the US is another kind of life, a process where I realize my ignorance and then become more educated, a journey where I lose my confidence suddenly and hopefully pick it up again one day.


Hyewon Yun

What ESL Classes Taught Me

Writer David Sedaris said that being a foreigner is “the lowest life form” while he was discussing on NPR his humiliating experiences of learning French in Paris.  The statement might be extreme, but it does hold some truth.  I worked as a translator back in Korea, and helped many English-speaking business people and professionals communicate with their Korean counterparts in mutual interactions.  My best efforts to change one language into another failed me sometimes because as foreigners, English speakers could not fully understand what was going on without a basic awareness of Korea’s cultural and social contexts.  In this situation, they first floundered in a deluge of words, then abandoned themselves in a pool of loss, and finally had this I-have-no-idea look on their faces.  This made them look not very smart, at best.  However, the tables were turned when I came to America with my husband, who had been accepted as a business graduate student at Notre Dame.

I started to learn English at the age of 13 in school, majored in English education at college, and was trained and worked as a professional English translator.  I often watched CNN and PBS, read Time Magazine and the New York Times, and loved Sex and the City, Desperate Housewives and Iron Man.  But as soon as I landed in the middle of Midwestern corn fields, I immediately became a “foreigner” who had no idea about America and American life.

My journey with ESL classes was actually the process of getting some “ideas” about American culture and history.  One of the insightful topics during the classes was tall tales which extoll courage, resourcefulness as well as physical and mental strength of the grassroots heroes and heroines who pioneered this country long before Hollywood, New York fashion, Michael Jackson or Coca Cola.  I could see the painful struggle of those people who crossed treacherous waters from around the world, endured hard labor to survive poverty or slavery, or took one tough step after another to build a better life in the New World behind these funny or exaggerated stories.  I believe that this heroism, unsung outside America, has served as a basis for this country’s entrepreneurship, country music, hard-to-pronounce street names and beautiful national parks.  Those tales gave me one of the moments where I was able to scratch a little bit deeper under the surface of this country.

The ESL program was an eye-opener, not just for America, but also for the world.  In celebration of Valentine’s Day every year and in the middle of busy presidential primaries this year, two different classes under the program had joint sessions to discuss love and wedding customs as well as presidential election systems in the students’ home countries.  Almost the entire world was represented in those sessions: China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan from East Asia; India, Iran, Israel and Sri Lanka from South Asia and the Middle East; Armenia, Russia and Spain from Asia and Europe; the Dominican Republic and Mexico from Central America; Brazil, Chile and Uruguay from South America; and Cameroon and Mali from Africa.  I was sometimes, shocked and at other times, amused by the stories.  For example, Islamic Chinese hold a family-oriented long-hour wedding ceremony, which seems to be the combination of the Islamic faith and Confucian values.  Iran surprised me with its great status of women and high divorce rates.  Africa and Asia have similarities in putting communities and families before individuals.  I never expected to meet a passionate Iranian feminist or modest silent Chinese career woman (Chinese people are considered assertive and outspoken to many Koreans).  I also learned what roles religion plays in American and Iranian politics, why the Chinese do not bother to vote, and how mysteriously totally different countries have so much in common.

These experiences reminded me that I had a mold to break, which required more sincere effort and commitment than expected.  It is true that I have learned things from CNN World Reports, BBC World Service, and The Economist, but they often cannot beat five minutes of small talk with real people from the regions that those news media touch upon.  The ESL student body is a microcosm that provides many chances for such interactions as it represents a big world across diverse countries, regions, skin colors, ethnic groups, cultures and religions in a small classroom.  This English-learning program encouraged me to break down the walls of preconceptions and misunderstandings and to see the world beyond the endless corn fields of the Midwest.

Some might say it is an exaggeration, but I believe these eye-opening moments help build trust, harmony and peace in the world in their small ways because the absence of or the lack of understanding often has produced and still produces prejudice and discrimination.  This was neither what I could have learned living a comfortable life as a non-foreigner in Korea, nor what I expected to learn when I first signed up for the program.  Nor is it what I could learn from any other part of American life, but rather it is only what this unique and precious program can deliver.  This is what the ESL program for international spouses taught me, and how it helped me grow out of “the lowest life form” in America.


Letter to a Friend – Part 2

Posted on April 24, 2012 in ESL, Gender Roles, International Spouses, Living Abroad by Mary Anderson

Here are the rest of the letters the class wrote after we read excerpts from  Survival Kit for Overseas Living and Expat Women: Confessions: 50 Answers to Your Real-Life Questions about Living Abroad.  These letters are again a must read for anyone thinking of living abroad or already living abroad with his or her family.


Han Dou

Hi Melody,

It is so wonderful to hear that you will come to America with your husband next month, and I hope I will be able to visit you soon. As we talked on the phone, I can understand your excitement, anxiety and puzzlement, which I have experienced before. Therefore, I want to share with you my story and suggestions, and hopefully it will help you.

America is a country full of diversities and opportunities, but I failed to look for any chance of it in the first three months since I had no specific future plans. Therefore, please think about what you want to do in America. For example, do you want to study or work? Do you want to practice your English, get pregnant or travel around the country? You do not have to choose one of them, but a plan is important, especially for us who have to move again and again. It always takes time to pack and unpack, but time goes so fast if you do not set a goal for yourself. I am lucky to get rid of the pressure from work, however, now I have to manage time by myself and suffer from the anxiety that I might waste too much time. Keep thinking, and you will find a motivation to pursue.

It is terrific if you know which person you want to be and keep going, and I just want to remind you, please do not put too much pressure on yourself. I used to handle many tough things in China. Staying in the U.S is another story. English skills, cultural differences, the effort to adapt to a new environment, strong homesickness and haunting loneliness, all make me much more sensitive and I feel frustrated easily. Actually you will find it is not a big deal when the problems or difficulties are settled. Something unexpected will happen always, and there is a solution you can find.

The last issue is about relationships. We were independent girls in our country, having our own career, social life and ample income. One day we came here, temporarily as a housewife because of our husbands’ career.  I didn’t realize the effect of this sudden change until I arrived here, and my husband and I had to adjust carefully. My suggestion is to discuss your feelings with your husband frequently, and never say something that will hurt each other. Since women are more sensitive than men, I suggest your husband take special care of your emotions.

Trust me, everything will go well. Call me when you have any questions. It is really a good chance for you to take a break from work, go to a new place and try some new things –  don’t worry, you can be the person you want to be.

Best regards,



Vindhi Panagoda

Dear Maria,

How are you doing?  I assume that you two are getting ready to leave Sri Lanka soon.  Is everything packed? It is getting cold here and pretty soon, even before we notice, we will have snow.  I’m glad that you are going to stay in a warmer state. Even though North Carolina is warmer than where I live, it is much colder than Sri Lanka. Have you already purchased winter coats? You will need a light winter coat and boots for the winter. The weather is unpredictable here.  It can change within minutes. Since you are coming here for one year, until Mohan’s sabbatical leave ends, I hope you are not going to quit your job. It’s better to keep it since you like to have economic independence.

Before you land in this country I would like to let you know a couple of things in advance for your knowledge.  Because Mohan has a student visa, automatically you will become a dependant of a student. And you will have an F-2 visa, which does not allow you under any circumstances to work or study while you stay here. Maybe you have already noticed it on your visa. It can be a pain in the neck if you are not ready to face this challenge. Even though you can’t work legally, you could always be a volunteer in several places such as a library, university, school, etc. There are so many volunteer opportunities in this country especially due to the economic hardship.  Some places, such as libraries, reduce their employees but it is hard for them to run a public service with shorthanded staff. They always love to have volunteers. It will benefit both of you at the same time. Also, it will be a good way to practice your English and meet others. You will get a chance to learn a lot of idioms in daily use which we do not practice much in Sri Lanka. Think about it if you want to spend your time wisely here.

Also, you could always contact the International Student Service office in the university to ask what they offer for dependants. They have valuable information all the time. Almost all the universities offer English classes for people like us, who do not use English as the first language in their home countries. Other than that, some government funded schools or organizations also offer English classes too. Over the past years that I spent here, English puzzled me more and more. The same words that I learned for years back home are pronounced and spelled differently here. These English classes are not only classes but also will help you to build a safety net too. While you are here, you need friends when you need a shoulder to cry or to share your joy. Over the years, I was lucky to meet spouses from all over the world and I learned a lot about their culture.  It is one of the privileges that I got so far being here.

I know that you have liked to crochet since you were a teen. You will able to find so many books about crochet and yarn in various colors. Or if not, you could start a new hobby with your new friends. By the way, do not forget to get your state identity card as soon as you can because it will help you to leave your passport, the only identification that you have, at home. Also, do not forget make a “to do list” before you come including the places that you want to visit or things that you would like to do here. You may not able to fulfill your list but it makes your life easier than you think.

People do think of coming to USA as a safe haven but it is not always true. Mohan could be extremely busy with his studies and you will need to find something or things to occupy your life. You have to stand on your own feet.

I wish there was someone to tell me all these things before I came but I found things to occupy me by myself.  Even though I have been here 7 years still there are good and bad days. Sometimes I feel I just want to do nothing. Emotionally it is hard to be away from your family. But on the bright side, you will be here for only one year.

Hope this information might help you to start new life here. Waiting to see you anxiously.

Love, Vindhi


Eunkyung Bae

Hello my friend,

How are you doing? I heard that you will come to the United States next month. Here is some information that I’d like you to know. Before coming here, you should prepare several things.

First, all American schools request students’ immunization records, therefore in order to enroll your kids in school, you need to prepare the immunization form. Go to your family doctor and get the vaccination records.

Second, get an international driver’s license. The public transportation system in America isn’t as good as Korean’s, because most people use their own vehicle. So you might have to drive your car right after arriving here to buy daily necessities and give a ride to your kids.

The most important thing you have to prepare is an open and positive mind. As you know, living abroad isn’t that easy at all. You are going to face a new language, culture, thoughts, and so on. Even though you could have a work permit, it’s quite difficult to get a job because of the economic recession. Sometimes you might be overwhelmed by a feeling of depression because of communication problems or homesickness. However, if you have a positive way of thinking and enjoy your life all the time, there will be no problem.

I hope these things are helpful to you.

Good luck,

Eunkyung Bae



Letters to a Friend – Part 1

Posted on April 16, 2012 in ESL, Gender Roles, International Spouses, Living Abroad by Mary Anderson

Last semester we read excerpts from  Survival Kit for Overseas Living and Expat Women: Confessions: 50 Answers to Your Real-Life Questions about Living Abroad.  We then discussed what it is like to follow your spouse to another country.  Here are letters written by the students to a fictitious friend giving advice on living abroad.  These letters are a must read for anyone thinking of living abroad or already living abroad with his or her family.  Here is the first part of this posting.

Heajin Cho

Dear Juno,

Time really flies and it’s hard to believe that it’s been already 4 months since I moved to the U.S. I was delighted to know that you are moving to the U.S. next month. I would like to give you some advice so that you can be more prepared than we were.

There are tons of things I would like to tell you, but I am going to focus on one thing. I know that you will be working here in the U.S. You will meet new people at work and you might find it difficult to communicate with them at first, but you will find you well adjusted soon enough.  I would rather focus on life of your wife because you will never understand what it is like to be someone’s wife in a foreign country. Even though she is very active, she will face limitations here. She doesn’t have family or friends here and she does not belong to a certain company like you. The more active she is in Korea, the more depressed she will be here. So, here are some tips for you and your wife.

First of all, she has to have plans to keep herself busy. I know that she is a big fan of sports, so she can enjoy a lot of sports such as golf, tennis and swimming. Exercising will not only keep her busy but also make her stay healthy. Second of all, I recommend she get together with Koreans regularly even if she wants to improve her English. The same ethnic group will make her relieved and well informed about the community. There must be Koreans who have lived in your area for quite a long time. She can learn many things from them especially while she settles down to the new community. Plus, she can turn to them when she feels lonely or homesick.

Last but not least, actually the most importantly, you have to give special attention to your wife. A lot of husbands here often don’t know if their wives are in an emotional crisis. They think they are the ones who are just busy earning money for the family. Working husbands seldom appreciate the importance of being a home maker. Please make sure that you try to know how your wife is doing. Sometimes a little attention helps a lot. It is always easier said than done. Living in a foreign country where you can’t communicate with your mother tongue makes you exhausted and frustrated, but remember this. You have to be positive all the time. I am sure that you will experience so many things valuable that you will never get chance to do the same in Korea. Hope to see you soon in the U.S.

Warmest regards,


Hyewon Yun

My dearest friend,

I cannot express how happy I was when I heard that you were coming to the States.  I applaud your courage and patience for being supportive of your husband along his excruciating application process.  Now, he has made it!  He has landed an admission to one of America’s most prestigious business schools and you are going to be in America very soon!  I congratulate both of you once again.  I have been here only one and a half years, but the day when I arrived here is now like my previous life.  I didn’t know how to start when you asked me to give some advice about the life as a career woman-turned-full-time housewife of an international student.  I needed quite some time to collect my ideas and here are some.

First, be ready to be surprised.  Whatever your expectations or plans are, the reality may betray them.  Life is full of unpredictable twists, and my life here is no exception.  In Korea, I believed that my life would be an exciting adventure once I set foot in America.  Why not when I have many new things to discover, many new places to visit and many new people to meet?  I wanted to audit some classes about the subjects I had always been interested in, but able to find no time to delve into.  I wanted to volunteer on campus thinking that the university would welcome my generous contribution and I could practice my English on a daily basis.  I also wanted to freelance as a translator when any need arises in the Korean community here.  I imagined that my life here would be busy, fun and exciting.

But not everything turned out to be as planned.  The first thing I found at the university was its system is designed to meet its students’, faculty members’ and employees’ needs, but not their spouses’.  I had difficulty having access to the information about classes or volunteer opportunities.  I also found my service was not welcome because the university wanted to give as many work opportunities as possible to its undergraduate students.  After visiting many different offices and organizations on campus one sweltering summer day, I could find no volunteer job at all in the university.  My visa status as an international student’s dependent (what a symbolic word!) does not allow me to work.  Under the pertinent law, even my volunteer job, if any, cannot be something that requires special skills or knowledge.  Someone at one school office recommended me to take hobby classes such as jewelry making in an off-campus community center, and I did not know what to say.  Jewelry making can be fun, but you cannot spend two years only making jewelry.  I wanted a job – whether paid or not – challenges and learning experiences.  I wanted to cry.

But take it easy.  Seek and you will find.  It only takes time.  Slowly but surely, I came to know the people, information and opportunities valuable to live in this town, fulfill my life here, and enjoy this new life.  I eventually landed a volunteer job at a local public library and now I am working six hours a week.  I am indirectly experiencing an American office environment.  I have met great people at the library who make these experiences more rewarding and enjoyable.  Now I know where to go to listen to great operas, good jazz performance or lectures about local history.  Though these are not what I planned in Korea, everything has been just great.  So if you face an obstacle in building a new life in America, don’t be discouraged and take heart.  There will be millions of detours.

Second, be humble.  One of the traps that most international spouses easily fall into is dwelling on their past glory.  You are an accomplished professional on the road to career success, which is great when you are on the job in Korea now.  But once you arrive in America you are the wife of your husband, nothing more or less than that.  You are allowed to be in the States because your husband is studying here.  You are going to meet new people at Korean students’ community.  You will be introduced and addressed as the wife of your husband, and people may be more interested in your husband’s major or study plan rather than your career or achievements in Korea.  But leave your Korean self at home, and come to America thinking you are at the starting point of building a new self in a new country. You might be confused at first about who you are or what you are doing.  But trust me that this rare opportunity will open the door to soul-searching, self-discovery and self-reinvention.

Third, be active and happy.  I found a job at the library because I met another spouse who had already been working there.  Where do you think I met her?  It was at the ESL class for international spouses.  You might think I did not need to sign up because my college major was English.  But I wanted to go out and to meet people, and I saw the class was the only opportunity available to me at that time.  I, an atheist, was not sure when the wife of my husband’s classmate invited me to Korean ladies’ bible study group.  To my surprise, the group was very inclusive from which many generous women shared home-made Korean food, supported each other when someone is ill or in other trouble, and also helped me in thousands of ways.  Whenever you have a chance, go out and do something.  You might be doubtful or reluctant, but you don’t know what is coming.  One opportunity will open another, and it will take you where you want.

My dearest friend!  I think you have mixed feelings right now: on the one hand, you are very excited and on the other hand, you are afraid.  But think positively and take it easy, then you will be just fine.  Nothing can be wrong when so many people’s wishes and good intentions are behind you.  And don’t forget that my heart is with you and how much I wish you are always happy.

With love,


Yunfei Sun

Dear Doudou,

How is everything going with you? You must be enjoying the last week before coming to the US: meeting friends, eating everywhere and shopping a lot. Well, as you might regard this change of life as a good chance to escape from your job, I’ll tell you that it is far more than this. Hopefully my advice can help you to enjoy your new journey in the US.

First, don’t be lazy! This is my most important advice. I can guess how you will spend your first week here: get up at noon, surf on the net aimlessly for the whole afternoon and lie on the bed reading a book until you sleep. This is just what I did in the first week. But when I found how fast time passed, I felt guilty. The longer you stay in comfort, the harder you will find a meaningful life back again. Therefore, please force yourself to keep going, and start from what you love to do. “One hour exercise per day, one book per week, one trip per month.” When you fill your schedule with all these activities and follow it regularly, you will find a happy, busy and meaningful life.

Second, don’t be shy! The second point is what my husband always encourages me to do. English is not as hard to speak as we expect, and American people are more tolerant than we expect. Just speak out confidently and ask for a repeat easily. You know what? Even ordering a Subway sandwich was “mission impossible” for me at first. But the only way we can improve our English fast is to throw ourselves completely in it. In addition to the language, you should be active in social activities to feel the new culture and make new friends. Don’t be afraid of “losing face” since the more you’re brave and try new things, the more respect you will win from others. Also, opportunities will not knock at the door if you just sit and wait. I sent an email to the Chinese Language Program in Notre Dame, and thus got a volunteer job as a T.A. You can get more if you actively seek opportunities.

Third, be open to every possibility! As a visitor and a spouse, we lose eligibility for many things. But it doesn’t mean that we have nothing to do. Yes, it’s true; we might not study in a community college, or take a volunteer job as an important part of life in China. But since there’re no other choices, doing what we can is better than doing nothing. Every experience is valuable no matter how meaningless it seems compared with our significant achievements in China.

Finally, the last one is about goals. We have the same problem: we don’t know where we will go two or five years from now. I often suddenly become worried by the lack of direction. Actually, perhaps I cannot give much useful advice when you encounter the same trouble. However, what I can tell you is that we should think about it as early as possible. First, you must know that where your life should go not only depends on your husband’s choices but also is decided by yourself. Second, you can start to collect suggestions from now on. A talk with your friends, co-workers and families can trigger your thinking. Also, remember to maintain your social network because any contact could be useful someday.

All the above is what I can think of so far, maybe I can share more with you later. Anyway, I believe you will have a wonderful experience in the US. Let’s positively face it together.

Can’t wait to see you in the US!



A Picture from My Childhood

Posted on December 6, 2011 in Childhood, ESL, International Spouses, Uncategorized by Mary Anderson

While most students wrote about birth order for one writing activity, one student chose to describe a picture from her childhood.  See if you can imagine the picture from her description before scrolling down and looking at it!


 A Picture from My Childhood – Yunfei Sun

I found an old photo in my PC. It’s a scanned copy that looks a little bit blurry. It’s an ordinary street view in Beijing 17 years ago. The old style bus stop and out-of-fashion bicycles leaning on the rusty handrail of the sidewalk, which can hardly be seen these days, reminds me of the old times. On the sidewalk three girls stand closely. They are dressed in the same kind of green camouflage coats and white sneakers, and all wear red scarfs which show that they are members of The Chinese Young Pioneer, a sort of honor for good kids. Although the appearance makes them look like young soldiers, their simple and pure eyes tell that they’re just kids.

It’s a typical morning in my private school life. The strange coat is due to the requirement of our one-week military training class. Xiao and Cici, my best two friends, and I walk together to school and back home every day during those six years. Different from other classmates, we live a little far from school, a 20-minute walk. So the extra 40 minutes being together fosters our stable and strong sisterhood. We create so many funny games that we never feel bored on the way: sharing our weird dreams, playing house (Xiao is always our mom), and learning to ride bikes. We also discover a new land along the way back home—- a college of music. Its outside exercise facilities, the artificial small lake, and even the academic building are our pleasure ground. We compete to perform difficult movements on the parallel bars, to develop the fastest way to skate on the icy lake in winter, to fish for the most tadpoles from the lake in summer, and to climb as long as possible glued to the wall of the building like a gecko. The simple game “hide and seek” is upgraded to a dynamic one there. Hiders can move within a certain part of the campus, making seekers run aimlessly everywhere. Can you see how we couldn’t spend just 20 minutes on the way back home? Even one hour is not enough.

I’m grateful to my father, who took this picture for us. I cannot remember whether there’s a special reason that my father brought a camera and went with me to the entrance of the underground passage where we girls usually met. I posted it on the photo wall on my wedding, with many other photos as the valuable records of my life.






Notre Dame Campus Scavenger Hunt!

Posted on November 29, 2011 in ESL, International Spouses, Notre Dame Campus by Mary Anderson

You’re from . . . [Russia, China, Iran, Korea, Mali, Spain, Chile, Japan, Armenia, Cameroon, or Taiwan], and today is your first day in the United States, in South Bend, Indiana, and on the beautiful campus of the University of Notre Dame.

You’ve joined ISSA’s ESL class to learn English and meet friends.   It’s your first class, and you’re receiving your first English assignment.  And what is your first assignment – a Scavenger Hunt for Notre Dame’s campus.  Not only do we have to find campus landmarks, we also have to request the signatures of the ND students who will help us find our landmarks!  Oh, the agony of having to speak English with strangers!!  But our class banded together and off we went, cameras, assignment sheet, dictionaries and maps in hand.  We walked, we talked, we asked directions, we snapped lots of photos –- and we not only became acquainted with the campus, we also became friends!  Here are some of our photos. . . .




At the top of the photo is Notre Dame’s Golden Dome.  I was reading about this building, and it is considered the world’s most recognized college landmark. In 1886, paper-thin strips of gold leaf were applied to the Our Lady statue and dome.  It can be seen from miles away… even from my home’s window in South Bend!

Eugenia Mayne-Nicholls, Chile







The log cabin is Notre Dame’s old church. I found it quite easily because I had been there before. We went there to baptize my husband’s friend’s child. The church is simple and very cozy inside. There is the feeling there like a miracle!

Ekateria Vostrikova, Russia









Here I am, standing under one of Notre Dame’s many arches.  I took this picture when I came here just two months ago.   I like every corner, every arch of the campus.  They are all very nice.

 Dan Xu, China




Here is Lili with Notre Dame’s Greek letter.  Greek was the first language of the great Western civilization.

Lili Shu, China





I am standing up in front of a golf cart. In the background some

buildings are hidden among the green vegetation.

Students are not allowed to drive a car on campus. They have several options: walking, skating, riding a bicycle, or using the wonderful golf carts.  We can see the carts everywhere.

I like the photo because I look happy, but really, I was very embarrassed: I didn’t want to look like a tourist!

I am a very good actress!!

María Garcia. Spain


The Basilica is my favorite place on the Notre Dame campus; it’s gorgeous.

Thanks to the ESL class for letting meet and know a lot of new friends.

I’m so happy, and I enjoy my class here.

 Shan-shan Chen, Taiwan



The Clarke War Memorial Fountain, also known as Notre Dame’s Stonehenge, was built using heavy stones including a huge stone ball. I stood next to it and became so small.

The water between two stone columns shoots from low to high again and again. Sometimes colorful rainbows can be seen under the sunlight.

Lei Wang, China






Look, I am standing in front of “Touchdown Jesus”, who faces the football stadium. When I came South Bend and visited the Notre Dame campus, my husband told me this mosaic is Touchdown Jesus, who raises his arms just like touchdown, and he prays for ND football to be winners forever. I never knew there was a god who was in charge of sports before!  I like this great mosaic, and I can feel its great spirit and energy.

Jinping Qu, China






I met a NDSP officer on the day of Notre Dame’s opening football game.

I spoke to him and introduced myself nervously because I was afraid of policemen.

He said to me “Welcome to Notre Dame!!!  I am here to help you!  What do you need?”

He was very kind and a little funny. I came to like him!

Akiko Endo, Japan






As I look at these idyllic ducks, freely enjoying such green grassland and quiet limpid water, I wonder why we as intelligent humans are so busy everyday.


Gaohong She, China



He is a Notre Dame Security Policeman.   We can easily meet him anywhere on Notre Dame’s campus.  I thought that he would be commanding and curt.  But as I approached him, he showed me a beaming smile and a gentle manner.

So, my friend took a picture of the two of us – both of us were smiling!

Hyeseon Park, Korea


From the class of Dr. Beverly Wills

The Impact of Birth Order – Part 2

Posted on November 14, 2011 in Birth Order, ESL, Gender Roles, International Spouses by Mary Anderson

Here are more reflections on birth order from the Expanding Level ESL class that are both from Korea.

Hyewon Yun – Korea

I am the oldest child in my family of 28 people.  My father has five younger brothers and a sister, and I am his first child and their first niece.  Naturally, I became the center of the universe as soon as I was born.  I was the first baby in the family and the first member of the next generation.  I had only good food, clothes, toys and everything else available in the family.  My uncles and aunt like to tell me even now that they used to stand in line to hold me as a baby.  I was the princess in the family.

The days of glory were short, however.  My brother came two years after me.  He was not just the first son for my father, but the first man for the family’s next generation-the next head of the extended family: the leader who makes decisions over small or big family matters, the minister who presides over annual ceremonies for ancestors and the ambassador who represents the whole family.  He was destined to be loved, recognized, and respected from his birth.  My throne was suddenly snatched and my existence faded into obscurity.

I felt it was not fair: “I am treated differently for something I was born into.  I cannot change my gender.  But it makes such a huge difference to my existence.  How come?”  I was confused.  I was also determined to prove myself to the family and the whole world: I am a girl, but better than any man!  I had to be better than him in everything.  I worked hard at school and played soldiers with a plastic gun to overpower him rather than playing with a doll.

In retrospect, I was over-competitive over nothing.  However, my position in the family in a country influenced by traditional gender stereotypes back then pushed me to do better and to do more.  It has made me achieve what I have achieved and what I am now.

Eunkyung Bae – Korea 

I was born in the small town of a southern province of Korea. My parents had one daughter ahead of me, so they wanted to have a son to carry on the family line. Unfortunately, I was born without the symbol of a boy. At that time, most Koreans thought and believed that only a son could have a charge of his family and could take care of his old parents. Our Korean society was based on Confucianism; therefore there was a strong atmosphere of conservatism. What was worse was that three years later, my mom delivered my younger sister. What a pity!

While I was growing up, I’d heard of several words of concerns and worries from my relatives just because my parents only had three girls. From time to time I visited my maternal grandparents’ house. My grandmother always worried about the fact that my mom didn’t have any son. On the way home, I used to pledge to myself that I would not make any trouble and be a good daughter to my mom.

Our three sisters had our own different roles to perform. As the first daughter of my family, my older sister had a strong responsibility to be a good big sister. She took care of my younger sister and me in case my mom was out. As a youngest of my family, my little sister just enjoyed her life without any burden. It seemed that she didn’t have any obstacles and was born to be loved. As the middle one among the three daughters, I had to do the roles of a daughter and a son. Whenever my father changed a light bulb, I had to hold the chair that my dad stepped on so he would not fall down. As my dad nailed on the wall to hang portraits or a mirror, I stood by him holding a toolbox. I’d never had long hair until entering university. I usually had a boyish short cut. On the other hand, my pretty and cute sisters had girlish long hair. Right after entering university, I went to the beauty parlor for a permanent to look more feminine. But my plan went down the drain; most of my friends told me that I looked like a middle-aged woman. What a discouraging moment!

As time goes by, we’ve all grown up well, got married, and luckily we all have sons. We all satisfied my mom. I still can’t forget the moment that I called my mom to let her know that I had a boy. I could hear her sobbing and praying through the telephone.  Korean society has changed through the years; lots of people think that all babies are same regardless of gender. Frankly speaking, womanpower is so strong. What a good sign for our future generations!

The Impact of Birth Order – Part 1

Posted on November 7, 2011 in Birth Order, ESL, Gender Roles, International Spouses by Mary Anderson

The Expanding Level ESL Class explored birth order and its impact on the students and their siblings. Here are several student reflections on birth order within their families.  Gender played a role as well for many of these students.  Look for more responses in future posts.

Heajin Cho – Korea

I was born as the oldest child in my family. I thought I was the center of the world and loved by my parents, relatives and even neighbors. I cannot remember, but my parents have told me so. Then, two years later, my younger sister was born. It was not until the day I found out a secret about the birth of my little sister that I finally understood why my little sister was always like a boy.

When my mom went to see the doctor to check her while still pregnant, the doctor told my mom that she was expecting “a boy”. The doctor could tell not from sonogram but from the activities of the baby. My mom also thought she was having a boy because the baby was kicking my mom’s belly so hard and moving a lot. My mom felt different through her second pregnancy. It was totally different from the first one for her. When my mom was giving birth to my sister, my dad was waiting outside expecting to have a son. Surprisingly, the doctor found out that my mom had a girl and said, “Oh my God!! It’s a girl.” My dad heard the truth and was disappointed a little. He knew that he could not play soccer together or share a lot of man stuff. He was holding my hand outside the room when the doctor told him it was a girl. Then, my dad said “Sister, let’s go to see your mom.”

Since my sister was meant to be a boy, she was more like a brother to me. I think my sister refused to be a pretty little girl in her childhood. She took everything I had when she was three. When I was riding a bike, she always took it away from me. Even though she was two years younger than me, she was always taller, bigger and stronger. Everyone who saw my sister and I in the elevator of my apartment asked us if my sister was the older one. The fact that my younger sister looked like the older sister made me behave well because I wanted to show them I was the good daughter and my sister could learn from my behavior. Also, my sister wanted to do everything she wanted and actually pretty much did. She started to learn to play the piano and stopped for a while because she didn’t want to sit in front of the piano and practice for a long time. Then, she learned to play the violin and stopped because it hurt her fingers. It was not easy to see my parents worried about my sister. They were so frustrated whenever my sister started a new thing and gave it up repeatedly. My sister was a person who did something to see if she really liked it.

I, the one who never wanted to let down my parents, always tried to follow rules and live up to my parents’ expectations. Sometimes I gave up things that I really wanted to do or buy. I can say I have never disappointed my parents. Now, when I look back, I was the good child who never caused my parents any heartache and my sister was the bad one who worried them. However, my sister turned out to be a person who speaks her opinion clearly and always challenges herself. On the other hand, I am a bit introvert and it is hard for me to express my feelings or opinions in front of other. I believe that the fact that I was born as the first child and my sister was like a greedy boy has formed who I am. Who knows what kind of person I would turn out to be if I were born as the second or youngest child in my family?

Vindhya Panagoda – Sri Lanka 

Gender gap, gender inequality and women’s rights are some of main topics that discussing in our society very often. Born as the “oldest” or as the “only son” makes a huge impact on your life if you belong to an Asian country. Being born as the youngest in a family with two children made my life who I am today.  Born 4 years after my older, my only brother, I grew up as a princess in my family. Even though, my parent were not wealthy enough to buy me pretty amazing toys, I was lucky to have their love as the youngest and only girl in my family.

When I was a teenager, I realized my parents were treating me and my brother in two different ways. But I wasn’t mature enough to understand why. Without a second thought I argued with my parents about why we two were treat in two different ways. As a young child my brain wasn’t developed enough to understand our parents love us more than anything. In Asian cultures when you have a son in a family, especially as the oldest, it’s a big relief for parents knowing somehow they are secured in the future.

My brother was a smart, intelligent, strait A student, and among all the cousins and all the adult’s respect went towards him. Many times my aunts and uncles showed him as an example to their kids. We two had different interests and our parents, especially my father, directed us towards what we were good at. But as a rebellious girl, I demanded I needed the same things that my bother got and somehow I tried to imitate him, complete with him education. My parents, especially mom, always tried to raise me as a respectable girl in our society. However, without understanding the cultural values that surrounded us, I tried to be a tomboy and gave my parents a hard time.

Time passed by and I was at an age that I could understand cultural and emotional values in our society and in our parents. When I look back I think being born as the youngest, as a girl, shaped me for who I’m today and what I’m doing today.