My first choice of major at a university in South Korea was “English literature.” Can you imagine learning English literature in Korean? If you are native then you will think “What???” However, if you are international students, then you will be like “Ah, yeah.” Since students had to choose their major when they apply for the university, my major was English literature (mainly because I had a better chance to find a job after graduation) and when I came to UMSL (the University of Missouri St. Louis) as an exchange student, my advisor “recommended” English literature class in my first semester. Imagine a student whose first language is not English and has been in America only for a month taking English literature class that expects to read a book per week. Yeah, right, no kidding. I was devastated and miserable. In the beginning of every class, a quiz was waiting for me to make me feel even more miserable with a zero on top of the white paper in black words. I survived that class and completed with a B. I pushed myself to the edge to get that score and on the last of class, I swore that I would never take any English course.
However, I decided to continue studying in America after the exchange program ended. When I transferred to a community college, I had to take writing proficiency test to enter English comp 101 class, equivalent to EN 100 at SEMO. I did not know why I had to take English Comp 101 class because I did not want to suffer again. I tried my best to avoid that course but failed horribly. Now I am glad that I took that class because the instructor whom I met and after English comp .1 and 2, I did not need to take TOEFL when I transferred to other universities.
I still have the essay that I wrote at the proficiency exam and the evaluation sheets with “Fail” marked at the bottom and numerous comments that explained why I failed. I have similar issues that most international students have, such as weak thesis or main points, verb tense or agreement issues, and plagiarism, improper reference uses, and more. For me, I did not have many opportunities to write a paper even in Korean before I came to America so I had more issues on top of the language barriers. I believe that most international students have similar issues due to a different educational background. My instructor in English comp class explained thoroughly about all essay assignments and made sure that I understood correctly. Moreover, she helped me to understand what I need to understand and focus when I write an essay in America. It took me several years to fully understand and I am in progress on writing academic papers.
Sometimes I read my previous papers just to see how my writing has changed or hope that my writing has improved a little. I still notice many mistakes on articles, prepositions, verb agreements, and more. I am definitely improving as I write more and review my drafts over and over. In addition, before I was afraid of going to the Writing Lab to show my paper to others because I was so embarrassed and afraid of others pointing my mistakes out. Since English is not my first language, I know that I will make mistakes and making mistakes is also the learning process. However, the feeling of embarrassment was still in my mind and stopped me from getting help from others on my writing. As time passed, I learned to accept my abilities and seek help. I believe that this also helped me to improve my writing skills.