As a first year student at Sookymung, I sometimes wrote a bucket list in my diary. At the time, I had about 50 wishes. At the top of the list was being an exchange student. While it was just a ‘wish’ at the time, I never imagined it would actually happen. As my years passed at school, I got determined to enjoy all benefits Sookmyung provides to its students and blossom my curiosity and potential in a new world. Thankfully, the precious chance came, and I travelled to a new world. I went to a place I’d never been, the USA to study at Coe College.
Readers may wonder why the USA and why Coe College? I knew some Korean friends who had attended Coe College, and I even met a US student from Coe College on a student exchange to Sookmyung. I heard from great things about Coe College from them, including how wonderful it was for international students and how peaceful and nice the college grounds are. Thanks to their words, I had a strangely strong curiosity and longingness for Coe College. Those are the reasons I listed it as my first preference when I applied to be an exchange student.
Coe College is a private, four-year residential liberal arts college in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. ‘Coe makes it possible. You make it happen.’ The college slogan can be seen everywhere on campus, and it inspires students. The college offers various programs for international students like its conversation partner program that matches US students with international student, its host family program that connects international students with US families, and it opens all school clubs up to all students, including international students. This made me feel sad that Sookymung doesn’t provide as many chances to meet international students except for special clubs. I hope Sookmyungians start encouraging foreign students to participate in school clubs.
I spent one semester preparing for the exchange program. To meet the exchange student qualification requirements, I had to get a high GPA, pass the TOEFL test, provide other documentation, and have an interview with professors. I did expect I would need much time to prepare for the TOEFL test, so I registered for a class at the YBM Academy during the vacation. Having been advised to take English as the medium of instruction classes, I registered for some classes, which added points to my application and helped me adjust to the English lecture environment. I recommend Sookmyungians prepare earlier than later.
How Was Coe College?
Coe College was the best program I ever participated in at Sookmyung. Coe College best attributes are its programs for international students and its education system.
One of my plans before leaving for the USA was to make a lot of international friends, and I did. Coe College offers a number of excellent programs, especially for international students. There were various weekly events like the Chicago trip, culture show, canoe trip, ice-skating, the welcome party, farewell party, and so on. After arriving, I joined an international club right away. I made a lot of foreign student friends like American, Japanese, Chinese, Nepalese, Swedish and so on participating in the club. The most impressive atmosphere on campus was the attitude towards international students. Everyone was open-minded and generous, so I didn’t have to worry about making friends. Personally, the most memorable event was the ‘Culture Show’. It involved people sharing their culture through performances. All international students showed their cultures on stage. I also performed a K-pop dance routine with Korean friends, and I loved watching other countries’ songs, traditional dances, life, and costumes.
Coe college also has a high quality education system. I took 3 classes at Coe College. They were Intermediate Japanese, Korean-War History, and Acting. I experienced culture-shock in those classes because it was completely different learning-teaching environment from what I was used to in Korea. Learning English as a foreign language in Korea, I busily memorized words and read sentences exactly and fast. However, in Japanese class, the professor didn’t focus solely on reading, but also had us do some speaking and writing. The professor always made a real world setting like going to a restaurant or a store, or we talked about the weather. Then, we spoke what we learned in class with Japanese friends. This made me remember Japanese words and sentences better and longer. Taking Korean-War History gave me the chance to look at Korean history more objectively. At Coe College, I read various news articles and literature expressing different point of views about the Korean War and learnt how other countries, especially the US, viewed the Korean War and how it influenced international relations. Finally, I was surprised at how active students were during the acting class. There was no textbook or written test. The grade depended completely on students’ ideas and expression. Nobody felt shy acting in front of others. Everyone enjoyed the class and our classmates’ acting. The confidence of American students stimulated me to be active in class.
Why Should You Choose Coe?
Coe College is certainly different from any other place I’ve live up till now. Opening the dormitory door brings you to a clear sky, green grass, and running squirrels. New friends, of different skin and eye colors and languages, greet you happily. After doing the exchange at Coe College, I came to know how big the world is and how small my life was in Korea. Be brave! Have courage! Do not miss the chance Sookmyung offers you!