Traveling abroad always makes me feel excited, so I have traveled to quite a few countries after becoming a university student. One day, I came to the thought that I would like to learn more from the wide world. I wanted to learn about the culture of the country I was visiting, not just seeing it at the surface level. At that moment, the idea of being an exchange student crossed my mind. It was now or never because being an exchange student is a privilege granted only to college students. I knew that I would learn about other cultures, travel, and make international friends by staying longer than a few short days in a nation. I started studying English in order to apply for an exchange student program right away. That's how my journey to the U.S. began.
Why NKU? It was the perfect choice
I chose to study in the U.S. because I thought it would offer me the best chance of meeting people from various cultures. I also had a dream of studying in the U.S. for some time. NKU topped my list of university choices, first because of its good location. It enabled me to feel the atmosphere of the city as well as that of the countryside at the same time. Truthfully, the school has almost no other buildings surrounding the campus. It is located deep in the countryside. However, with the school's student ALL Card, a student ID card that enables NKU students to do pretty much everything, meant I could travel to Cincinnati in just 30 minutes on a bus called TANK. The city has everything a student could want. Also, the airport is located just 20 minutes away from the campus, so exchange students can easily travel to and from their home nation to school. I was also very thankful that the airport was nearby because it allowed me to travel to more than ten cities in the U.S. and Canada.
Second, on the NKU campus is the media building Griffith Hall. It gives media major students opportunities to use broadcasting equipment as well as authentic versions of Adobe programs. Also, all professors are passionate. They work with students throughout an entire project process rather than just giving assignments.
Last, I feel the student body's kindness and joy. Before going, I feared discrimination because of the low number of Asian students on campus, but as soon as I arrived at school, all my worries disappeared. NKU is a place where friends from all cultures including Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America, come together. It was a friendly campus where everyone said hello to each other without any prejudice, even people I had never met before. Actually, at the beginning, it was awkward to greet strangers, but at some point, I found myself walking along the street greeting unknown people. Also, there were many events on campus, and whenever music was played on the speakers, I danced with friends. I would have never done this before. I think it made the campus culture and my personality brighter.
Various special events for the first time
I participated in many events that I didn't enjoy in Korea. Especially, I went to watch a lot of sports games despite not being familiar with sports. The university's women's soccer team was famous, so I watched their matches often. I also cheered for the Cincinnati baseball team Cincinnati Reds at a big baseball stadium. Choo Shinsoo, a famous Korean baseball player, used to be a member of that team a few years ago. One of the most active activities I joined was camping in the wilderness. In Korea, I had only been camping at designated sites that provide visitors with all the necessary equipment, but in the wilderness, I had to bring what I needed myself. It was a tough challenge because I was afraid of night hiking and my phone did not work, but the harder it was, the more memorable I found it.
There were many opportunities to enjoy various festivals besides sports. Cincinnati was founded by German immigrants, so there is a German culture influence in the city. One of more renowned events is Oktoberfest, a beer festival. Drinking on the street is illegal, but during the festival, it is allowed. I also experienced a number of special holidays. On Labor Day, I enjoyed the fireworks festival with friends, on Halloween, I tried pumpkin carving, and on Thanksgiving Day, I invited a friend's home for turkey dinner. Each was meaningful because I had a firsthand chance to experience and enjoy the holidays that I had only read and learned about.
As a Korean ambassador
I joined the campus' international fair and conference to learn about other cultures and inform others about Korean culture. I thought the campus body would not know much about Korea, but I was able to meet many friends more interested in Korean culture than myself. I set up a booth where participants could experience the spicy taste of Korea and play Yut. I also offered advice to those wanting to come to Sookmyung as exchange students. I was very proud of the number of guests come to my booth that had interest in Korea and Sookmyung.
By chance, I could teach Hangul in a Korean class. When I made the advert poster, I had no idea how many people would show an interest. I didn't make any special preparations because I never expected people would know about Hangul well. However, on the first day of the class, I felt ashamed of myself. More participants than I expected showed up, all interested in learning Hangul even though their individual skills were different. Some participants had been watching Korean dramas for 10 years, some were big fans of K-pop, some were Korean adoptees, and some just wanted to read Korean cookbooks. Each person had different reasons for wanting to learn Hangul.
I was completely wrong. I did my best to teach all participants Hangul, and by the end of the class, everyone could read and write it. Though the Korean class ended, I have heard that they are still learning Hangul. Although I was the class teacher, I actually learned how to communicate effectively from the enrollees.
Best gift in my life, friends
I highly recommend going to other countries as an exchange student. I experience too much detail only in this short report. My vision has widened and my fear of being alone has disappeared. It was a turning point of my life and an opportunity to rebuild my future plan. However, the biggest reason I recommend going on an exchange is the people. Since I traveled a lot, I have been frequently asked which place did I like the most. I always would like to say, 'The place where I lived with my friends.' I made great people and made good friends. Even the small memories are precious such as playing card games and making traditional dishes from various countries in my dormitory. Actually, the dormitory facilities are horrible, but I did not leave or change my room due to my wonderful roommates. We had daily language exchanges, and we became family. I now look back and laugh at my difficult moments. The friends I made are gifts that will never come again in my life. Thanks to my friends, every moment in the U.S. was perfect. Also, thanks to them, I could overcome difficult times. Whenever I am asked if I would return, I will reply absolutely!