Mike’s Farewell Speech to Students–December 2013

I am just now finishing the year teaching a “seminar in simultaneous interpretation” which mostly means practice and feedback in interpreting formal speeches from Korean to English. In a usual class students will read Korean speeches for their peers who are in the special booths in the back of the room interpreting simultaneously into English. Sometimes I provide some practice (but no feedback) going English->Korean by just reading a speech in English. Today was the rare occasion when I read a speech that I wrote. There are likely more than a few mistakes and surely some inside jokes but I figured I might as well share it.

Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished guestsssss.
_______ is here.
________ is here.
______ is here.

Thank you all so much for coming.
I really appreciate it.

I’d like to take a moment to express my gratitude to you for coming here this morning, bright and early, despite your busy schedules. Thank you. It is all the more meaningful that you came here today considering that the graduation exam has already been taken.

As I was coming here this morning I was thinking that this has been quite a journey. Quite a journey indeed. We started working together in March of this year. To my mind this seems like it was only yesterday. At the same time it seems like it was a lifetime ago. This is quite the paradox. I might call it the time paradox. Or perhaps the “rear view mirror paradox.” As you might know, “objects in the (rear view) mirror are closer than they appear.”

I think when we started back in March it still felt winter, and here we are in mid-December, with Jack Frost nipping at our toes. In between we had had classes in June and September. I know that Korean people often talk about the 4 distinct seasons here but I have to say that June felt a lot like summer to me and so did September. I might be wrong but maybe global warming is to blame, rather, I mean climate change.

It is actually quite difficult to talk about “global warming” when it is so cold. But here we are in the cold.

Here we are at the end of a journey. …

I think one of the most famous quotes regarding journeys is by Lao Tzu who said, “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step” Those steps started with us, here 9 months ago and you guys a year before that and in fact much longer than that. Your journeys to get here started a long time ago.

I hope you will take the time to savor where you are. You know, “stop and smell the roses” a bit. I hope you will take the time to relax too. You surely deserve it.  hope you will take some chances to reconnect with your friends. With your family. Other loved ones. With your pets. With yourselves too.

I don’t actually know exactly what I am suggesting except that you take some “you time” and do something you  have been meaning to do for a while but have been putting it off. It could as simple as just watching a movie or sleeping in or taking a short trip or maybe having a meal that you have missed. Maybe reading for pleasure. (This, by the way, is something I am looking forward to in the winter). I hope you will do something for yourself. Once again, I think you have earned it.  I think the end of such a long and arduous journey is a good chance to relax as well as to reflect.

Here we are at the end of a journey.

after 32 weeks. Well, actually more like 29 weeks maybe.
weeks would mean around 87 class hours which might sound like a lot or might not sound like much. When I see that number, 87 it doesn’t seem like much until I consider that it is like 3.6 days. That sounds like a lot doesn’t it? More than 3.5 days together.

In that time there were many many speeches and even more rounds of interpretation.

We have heard about Korea’s “rise from the ashes of war” innumerous times.
I am now very well that Korea is the first nation to “transform itself from a recipient to a donor nation”. I am now very well versed about the “Miracle on the Han.”

In this year how many bad jokes from me did you hear?
Thanks again for your laughter and understanding.

How many coffees did you have this year I have no idea.

I guess you also had many sleep deprived nights.

In this year, I think we have seen a lot.
So many different hairstyles.
So many reasons for missing class.
North Korea looking a bit scary at times. A very creative economy.
I even had class at Starbucks with some of you.

So many emails with summaries. Some emails with official transcripts, some of those good and some of them just ok.

Thank you for the effort. Thank you for your efforts. I know it wasn’t always easy. But I always appreciated and respected your resilience and “can do” spirit.

I also wanted to be sure to thank you for being so easy and fun to work with. I have always been impressed with how well you guys worked with each other (or at least how well you pretended to!) I think this is really impressive. I am sure there must have been some ups and downs working so closely with 7 (or 15) other people for all this time but from my outside third party perspective it has been great to see how well you have worked together and tried to help each other.

A few weeks ago I ran into a former student of mine, your senior, from last year. Perhaps instead of senior I should say someone who graduated a year ahead of you from the same program (or something else equally as long and complicated). So yes, where was I? I ran into one of your seniors the other day right here and she said that sometimes she had a question and thought I could help her with it but she didn’t feel like bothering me. I told her it would be no bother and I am happy to help. So, let me be clear. Please feel free to let me know if there is anything I can do to help you. Also please stay in touch. As you know, I am on email pretty often.

Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help.

Don’t be a stranger.

Happy Holidays…and I wish you the best for 2014 and beyond. I hope that at this time next year you are exactly where you want to be.

Thank you for listening and once again thanks for your effort throughout the term. It has been an honor and a privilege to work with you.

Oh, and one final thing, I actually didn’t give you the full Lao Tzu quote earlier. Here it is:
“Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small.

A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”

Best of luck to each of you on your journeys.
Bon voyage and Godspeed.


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