Graduation and My Loves

Amidst the hanging, rancid feeling of finals that lingers, I write this blog post. In a three-day writing spree, I holed myself up in a small, white room stocked with an assortment of foods that screamed heart attack, and I emerged a sick, but stress-free butterfly. In the wake of this paper-writing marathon, I am now faced with the existential crisis of graduation and life thereafter. I was able to successfully achieve a degree in Second Language Studies and a minor in Korean, but the future as a crisis remains. Fortunately for me, however, most of that crisis peaked in March of this year. In March, I awaited the admission letters to two graduate programs at the University of Hawaii at Manoa: Second Language Studies and Korean Flagship.

The thought of choosing between the two scared me half to death.

My Two Choices

Second Language Studies: My constant love. It never let me down and the content always made me want to know more. Never failing me and me having never doubted it, Second Language Studies (SLS) was the ideal path to take for my dreamed future career in English language curriculum development. The program was as prestigious as I desired to be in the future. Ever since my freshman year of college, it provided me with security and classmates who were understanding, quirky, and entertaining.

Korean Flagship: The love that I passionately desired. In general, learning Korean was a fiery ordeal; it was full of ups and downs, but it left me wanting more. The moment I first learned about the flagship program for Korean, I longed to be in it. But alas, I was too late and too poor for the bachelor’s program. In my sophomore year, I made a pact with myself to steel and wait until graduate school, so I could finally reach that ever-distant love.

When I first compared the two options, I knew it was going to take some time for me to make a decision. I deliberated alone for some time before turning to anyone who would lend an ear. My friends learning Korean and those who were in the flagship program beckoned me to join them. My family and friends who were not associated with anything Korean prodded me forward to accept the offer in SLS. But I realized it was my decision, and the words of others meant nothing if I myself didn’t believe in the choice.

What really were the benefits of each program? SLS has a strong history and classes that would prepare me for the careers I was most interested in. Korean Flagship held the promise of becoming business proficient/fluent in Korean which was a long-held desire of mine. The courses, when looking deeper into them, held a focus on politics and relations with North Korea, something I was definitely not interested in. Looking deeper into what people said about the MA program, I heard many stories of how the MA students’ Korean language ability was quite lower than the BA level, which made it less favorable to me. The job outlooks: government. That was another turn off because of my lack of interest in the government.

My Decision

Despite my great desire and strong alignment with learning Korean, which you may have derived, I chose to do my MA in SLS. By majoring in SLS I’ll be more qualified for the types of jobs I aspire. I also still want to expand my knowledge in SLS, which could be difficult to study on my own, whereas I can study Korean on my own a little more easily.  Because of the benefits listed above, I believe it was the right choice, but whenever I see a Korean Flagship student, my heart faintly aches for the status that is now impossible for me to achieve. My only remedy is to assure myself that I can still take Korean classes while earning my master’s degree in SLS.  

As graduation day brashly comes closer, I look at my cap and gown, wondering what my new future will be like. I’ll let you know next fall, but until then, I’ll savor these last few days as an undergraduate student and enjoy the free summer filled with no obligations.



Raquel “Rocky” Reinagel is a MA candidate and graduate assistant in the Department of Second Language Studies at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa; former president of Hanwoori Hawaiʻi; and Co-President of the Second Language Studies Student Association (SLSSA) at UHM.