Of students and eruptions

This afternoon I gave a presentation to college students at Chung-Ahn University in Seoul.  It’s the first presentation I’ve given in some time.  I thought I would be nervous, but I was not.  About 30 students showed up to learn more about studying in the U.S. and about steps they need to take to study there.  I used a PowerPoint presentation written in Korean as a guide (I frequently referred to notes in English).  The students seemed to enjoy the presentation, and I tried to liven it up a bit with some understated humor.  A colleague of mine joined me and did an excellent job translating my monologue into Korean.  The students were quiet throughout the presentation, and I had to coax them to ask questions at the end.  I’ve been told that silence is not typical during these types of gatherings.  Presenters are typically bombarded with questions.  Perhaps my presentation was so thorough that I answered all of their questions, or maybe they’re just introverted.  I doubt it.  I think they were shy.  After the presentation, some of the students came up to me with more specific questions, reinforced in my mind that they were interested in what I had to say.


I also spent time with one of the vice presidents at Chung-Ahn.  He received his Ph.D from the U.S. and had a fabulous grasp of English and the American education system.  I told him some of my impressions about the Korean educational system, including some I wrote about yesterday.  He clarified that Korean students do not have to necessarily change schools if they change majors.  However, changing majors is much more difficult to do in Korea than it is in the U.S.  He said that most Korean students go to the states to study English and then return to Korea to finish their degrees.  He appreciated that my colleague and I visited the school a community service to help Korean students learn more about study in the U.S.  He also pointed out that the university hosts many foreign students, and I told him that I was glad to hear that the university gave foreign students the opportunity to learn more about Korean culture.  Korean exchange programs are great outreach programs.


Today is the 25th anniversary of the initial eruption of Mt. St. Helens in Washington State.  I did not live in Washington at the time, but my dad was living there in anticipation of our eventual relocation there.  My family joined him in Washington State months after the blast occurred.  57 people lost their lives in the eruption, including Harry Truman, an elderly gentleman who had lived near the mountain for years and refused to leave despite repeated warnings.  The pre-eruption photos reveal what was once one of the most beautiful mountains in the U.S.  Mt. St. Helens even now looks quite barren and misshapen.  The area that surrounds it is still very devastated, although the vegetation has started growing again.  The remnant of what used to be gorgeous Spirit Lake at the base of the mountain is just a shadow of what it used to be.  My wife and I visited the mountain for the first time several years ago.  It’s quite humble standing before a mountain that has so obviously been scarred by a volcanic blast.  The mountain has recently started rumbling again, and its volcanic dome has begun to grow again.  It frequently lets off steam.  No one knows when it will erupt again.  It’s unlikely that it will have another devastating eruption like it did in 1980, but you never know.

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