Two semesters at the University of South Florida (USF) was such a grace to me; I’ve experienced the things that were very valuable and priceless. The main reason why I wanted to study abroad as an exchange student was because I wanted to experience the art classes of colleges in other countries. I was curious about how the art college students in other countries appreciate artworks and how they discuss their works with peers and professors. My days in USF not only helped me solve these questions, but also gave me an idea of how to get the best of art education during my college years.
I started preparing to be an exchange student in the midst of my sophomore year. I took many classes that were taught in English, including the SISS (Sookmyung International summer session)courses during summer. I took these courses because of the extra credit when applying for the exchange program, but I kept thinking to myself that these English speaking courses were my rehearsal for my future as an exchange student in America.
After passing all the exams to be an eligible student, I had to make a decision of which school to go to. My priority when choosing my school was the environment of the college of art. According to the information that I had found, USF was known to have a good college of arts (including the college of art, music and theatre). After my experience of two semesters at USF, this was proved to be true.
Adjusting to the New Environment
I arrived in Tampa, Florida just a week before the fall-2009 classes started. All new international students had to attend the orientation programs held by the department of International Affairs. Also, there were hundreds of events held by the Student Government called “The Welcome Week Events.” Freshmen students and returning upperclassmen students enjoyed this week of parties, culture and fun. Thanks to these special programs, I could get to know some of the local students as well as some exchange students from different countries.
My first semester was very interesting since everything was so new to me. But at the same time it was not easy toadjust into the new culture and environment. One interesting class I took was called ‘Intro to Black Experience.’ I took this class because I’m interested in Afro-American culture and history. Through this class, I could study the things that I could never have known if I were in Korea. I was the only Asian in this class that had 90% of students who were African-Americans, and it made me a little intimidated at first. Another class that I really enjoyed was ‘Intermediate Drawing’ class. I was very excited to take this class because taking art classes were my major interest and goal of my exchange student days. The way the professor led the class was very different from SMU, as I expected. The class time was mostly spent with discussions and critiques about our own works and some masterpieces of famous artists. The students were very easygoing with the professor, as if they were friends. This environment came to me as a shock, but soon I felt very comfortable. It gave me more understanding of American culture, and I felt that it helped me to learn more from the professor.
Second Semester: The Highlight of My Exchange Student Year
From the start of my first semester, I joined a group called ‘The Navigators.’ This is a missionary group, which started in America and later spread throughout other countries including Korea. I was in this group as well, since before I went to America, and I was very pleased to see the Navigators at USF. I made many truthful friends from regular meetings and bible studies. I also joined their missionary trip to New Orleans during the spring break. It was a very meaningful experience that I can never forget. My Navigators friends were very supportive and trustworthy until the day I left the States; praying with me whenever I felt homesick or withdrawn from American culture.
A week ago, I heard that a new fall semester had started at USF. I could not believe it has already been a year since I first arrived in the States. When I look back my whole year at USF, it was a mix of different events with different emotions, and I remember that all those happenings were very slow and subtle. The campus was humongous, and the surroundings were so quiet and delicate that the only thing you could hear was the sound of cars passing by. But inside this tranquility, a lot of different things were happening at USF; the students have parties out of nowhere, suddenly the traffic starts to go bad because there’s a football game at the stadium, hundreds of students gather up at the Marshall Student Center (a big student center in the middle of the campus) for their club and sorority meetings. It was amazing to watch all these small and big events happen and at the same time have my main object accomplished for this exchange program. Not only I have seen and experienced the art classes outside of Korea, but those art classes also helped me figure out my future plans after I graduate. I still keep in contact with my American friends in Florida, and I get excited when we talk about the day I go back to the States.