Critical Language Scholarship Program | Marlena McDaniel
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Marlena McDaniel

Mar­lena McDaniel is an alum­na of the 2016 CLS Kore­an pro­gram in Gwangju, South Korea. She is cur­rent­ly a senior at the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Alaba­ma major­ing in Hos­pi­tal­i­ty Man­age­ment and Inter­na­tion­al Stud­ies. Mar­lena hopes to return to South Korea next year for the 2018 Win­ter Olympics in Pyeongchang. When she is not study­ing Kore­an, Mar­lena likes to paint, cro­chet, sew, and oth­er­wise spend her time doing all sorts of crafts. 

Why Kore­an?

I have always found the Kore­an lan­guage very inter­est­ing. It has a very unique struc­ture, espe­cial­ly com­pared to oth­er East Asian lan­guages like Chi­nese or Japan­ese. I like the fact that the writ­ten lan­guage is very specif­i­cal­ly designed. Peo­ple actu­al­ly sat down and decid­ed how it would work rather than it devel­op­ing over time. Because of this, it is an eas­i­er lan­guage to learn and read. 

Stand­ing Out in a Crowd

Korea is an extreme­ly homo­ge­neous soci­ety and there is a lot of pres­sure to fit in and not stick out. As a for­eign­er I stood out in a crowd, all the more so because I am a per­son with a phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ty, and I wear a pros­thet­ic leg in order to walk around. In the hot Kore­an sum­mer I was wear­ing shorts almost every day, so my pros­thet­ic was on full dis­play. I got some stares from peo­ple on the street but it also opened a lot of chances to talk to peo­ple. We all had Kore­an col­lege stu­dents as lan­guage part­ners and sev­er­al of the girls asked me about my leg or com­ple­ment­ed me on how well I walked. It gave me an oppor­tu­ni­ty to talk to them about how my dis­abil­i­ty is part of my iden­ti­ty and I don’t feel the need to hide it. 

A Gift from the Heart

One of the things that first peaked my inter­est in Kore­an was tele­vi­sion dra­mas from Korea. There was one par­tic­u­lar scene repeat­ed in a lot of dra­ma that always con­fused me though. When­ev­er some­one would move into a new house, their friends would come by with a roll of toi­let paper as a house­warm­ing gift. I thought it must be because if you’d just moved into a new place you prob­a­bly hadn’t had the time to go out and buy this impor­tant house­hold item, but still it seemed odd. Then one day in class we learned about this exact thing. Gift­ing a roll of toi­let paper means some­thing to the effect of may your life unroll smooth­ly.” It wasn’t just a help­ful gift; it was a bless­ing of good luck. I left class so excit­ed that I final­ly under­stood the cul­tur­al sig­nif­i­cance of some­thing I had seen over and over again. 

Words of Wisdom

I would def­i­nite­ly rec­om­mend that peo­ple study Kore­an. Even though Korea is a small coun­ty they are grow­ing quick­ly as a world pow­er. Kore­an cor­po­ra­tions are grow­ing rapid­ly and have a major place in the glob­al marketplace. 


Alumni Profiles

Marlena McDaniel
Marlena McDaniel
Korean 2016
Gwangju, South Korea

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Posted Date

March 28, 2017