Korean exchange student experiences new culture, takes classes at CMU
For South Korea senior Sora Lee, studying abroad has exposed her to American culture and college life.
Lee is an exchange student from Korea University. The English and literature major is taking one recreation class, one English literature class and two language courses through the English Language Institute at Central Michigan University. Before coming to the United States, Lee had taken 13 years of English.
“I chose CMU because of the exchange program,” she said. “I wanted to learn more English and to experience American university.”
She said she there were some shocking things she noticed when she came to the U.S.
“(In) the U.S. – just United States universities – the students enjoy partying very much,” Lee said. “That was very surprising to me. They are also very helpful and very active.”
But that was not the most surprising thing.
“The most shocking thing for me was in America that American girls or woman can smoke anywhere,” she said. “In Korea, girls and women can have cigarettes only in hidden places or at home.”
She also noted one other major difference between the U.S. and Korea.
“The biggest difference is the public transportation,” Lee said. “If I have no car it’s very difficult to travel around Michigan or the United States. Korea is very developed with its public transportation.”
Lee said learning class material is hard because of the language, but also struggles with a similar task that any off-campus college student faces.
“It’s hard for me because I have to cook for myself,” she said. “I cook spaghetti; I just learned how to make spaghetti here.”
She said she didn’t really like spaghetti and really missed Korean food, specifically Korean soup and Kim Chi – spicy pickled cabbage.
Her new favorite American cuisine is pizza.
“I like the pizza in the (Bovee University Center) the best,” Lee said.
CMU Student Services provides help to international students experiencing American opportunities such as Lee’s.
Tracy Nakajima, director of International Student/Scholar Services, said that the exchange program is a great experience for those involved.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for CMU and exchange students to experience new cultures and education systems,” she said. “This is why we value (the exchange program) so much because it’s a two-way exchange. Also, people who aren’t able to travel abroad can interact with the international students.”
Nakajima said even though students may not have the opportunity to study abroad, meeting international students can be just as fulfilling.
“We want people to take the opportunity to take the time and the chance to meet the international students. It’s an opportunity for our students to learn about their cultures,” she said. “We encourage students to join the International Student Organization, an RSO on campus that is open to anyone and is an opportunity for students to learn and share about their culture.”
Sarah Barnard, the study abroad outreach coordinator, said those interested in studying abroad should meet with a peer adviser to learn more.
“Studying abroad looks excellent on a resume; it’s an investment in the future,” she said. “It’s helping yourself get a career and setting yourself up for success. We live in a very interconnected world and you gain so many new and valuable skills studying abroad.”
After she goes back to Korea next month, Lee said there are two things she’ll miss.
“I’ll miss the party culture,” she said. “I also met some American students here that I will miss, so I will visit.”
Lee said she hopes to return to the U.S. to work.
“My dream is to be a hotelier or flight attendant,” she said. “I want to work at a Hilton in New York City. I went to NYC over spring break and it was the best city I’ve been to here.”
In her free time, Lee said she likes to go to the Student Activity Center and also likes to go bowling – which she just learned when she came to the U.S.
She said that everyone should try to study abroad.
“It was a very good experience,” Lee said. “It’s my first experience and my best experience abroad outside of Korea.”
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