My summer break was no break at all. I had tons of homework from my tutors, had to fill out boarding school applications, and prepare for SSAT. Seeing me suffer, my English tutor asked me if I was interested in participating in a Stress-management seminar held somewhere in the countryside near Seoul. Normally, I would not take a whole day off studying to go to some farm, but this was my English tutor who usually pushes me to study more. I figured if she thought I was too stressed, then I must be. Plus, she seemed to have this very peaceful alternative lifestyle having retired from running a very stressful test-prep academy. She was now only teaching select students through video-chat, calling herself a digital nomad. She seemed to know a thing or two about stress, so I decided to heed her advice and try the farm.
It was Saturday morning, I got in my car and the traffic was pretty bad, so I arrived there late. There were about a dozen students who all looked tired and stressed. Most of them were either in international schools or studying abroad in boarding schools like me. We all looked at each other feeling a bit shy but curious.
The first thing I saw as I was parking was a very fat cat lounging around lazily sitting on a rocking chair on the porch. Then, as I opened the door, a teacher welcomed me in a ridiculous dress as if she was about to host a debutante ball, escorting me into her little party hall that was decorated with many flamboyant decorations.
The first thing we did was filling out questionnaires about ourselves. I then remembered that this teacher, who seems a bit too cheerful on such a rainy day, was a psychologist in America at one time or another, so I decided to give it a try and answer it faithfully. Based on our answers, she grouped us into similar types of personalities. She then gave us results about the kind of personalities we had. She read our shortcomings and our fortes. It was horribly accurate. I was placed in a ‘gold’ group. The gold group was supposedly the backbones of the society who are planners and executors. Then, a few icebreaker games ensued. By then, I made some friends who were in similar situations as I was in, all bilingual, bi-cultural, and all suffering from academic and social pressure.
|[A photo of the party hall. Photo by my tutor]|
During lunchtime, we were served delicious smoked pork. We then walked around the farm, looking at the trees, weeds, and the mountains. The fat cat kept following us around. Then, the teacher took us out to one of the walls and gave us spray paints and told us to vandalize that wall with anything we want. I felt like Banksy but painted like a 3-year-old. But it felt good to see the colors sprayed wildly on a blank wall. I saw a student spray paint quadratic equations that we all hated, only to paint a big red X and some impolite words over it in black. Thanks to this project, I felt like I let out some steam. She certainly did.
|[A group photo in front of the spray-painted wall. Photo by my tutor’s husband.]|
Then, we went back inside, dessert was waiting with tea. It was followed by a few lectures on various coping mechanisms, some good and others not so good. Then, each group of four was assigned to make a skit to demonstrate some of the maladaptive ways and some positive ways of releasing stress. Our group rendered the theme of “displacement” which is an unconscious defense mechanism whereby the mind imputes its hurt feelings to another being. I played the main character of a kid who did bad in her test ends up abusing the house pet. The whole process of writing, directing, and acting in a skit surprisingly brought out a lot of laughter in us.
At the end, I looked around and thought what a unique experience this was. Visiting the countryside of a Korean mushroom farm decorated in a funky fashion, as if a poor English earl would walk out at any moment, was a unique experience. Then learning western psychology from a Harvard educated Korean American psychologist clad in a gaudy ball gown capped it all up for the day, a day that I would never be able to repeat again.
I will have to wait and see how the tips on dealing with stress will be applied later. But for now, I guess what I got from this seminar is more awareness about myself, fresh air, belly full of good food, artistic output, and new friends who were in the same boat as me, and that felt much better. When I got back in my car, I was ready to pick up that classics book I’d been meaning to read.
Indian Mountain School
Sophia Kim email@example.com
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