HOMER CITY — Homer-Center High School’s students and staff have just recently introduced and welcomed two new foreign exchange students, all the way from South Korea.
These two girls, Chaeeun Park and Yeeun Yoo, began their new education and school life here on Jan. 22. Ever since, we’ve been learning about their culture and exposing them to ours, seeing some major and interesting differences along the way.
[PHOTO: New students at Homer-Center High School, accompanied by their student guides, received some new Wildcats gear for one of the school spirit days. From left are Shawn Steffee, Chaeeun Park, Julia Buggey, Yeeun Yoo and Anna Overman. (Submitted photo/Homer-Center High School)]
I had the privilege to welcome the older girl, Chaeeun, alongside Shawn Steffee, a senior at Homer-Center; we both had similar classes to Chaeeun, and Yeeun was guided by Anna Overman for the same reason.
[Read the full roundup of area high school news from the Gazette's network of student news reporters on Fridays in The Indiana Gazette and in the Student News section on The Indiana Gazette Online.]
From my personal experiences with them, these girls have been nothing but sweet, kind and friendly. I’ve learned some really captivating details about their former education in Korea, mainly from Chaeeun, since I’ve come to know her and see her more often.
Chaeeun is one of four children and describes her home life as a pretty busy setting. As for food, her favorites lie within Korean-style barbecue, although she loves Italian foods, specifically pasta dishes.
What really stunned me, though, were the differences in their school system. Chaeeun explained to me that they begin their school day at about 8 a.m., attending 50-minute classes with 10-minute breaks until lunchtime.
After lunch, which lasts from noon to 1 p.m., the school day continues as previously stated until about 4:30 p.m. From there, students would then attend any additional after-school classes and eat dinner.
Following their meal, Korean students continue to stay at school from 6:30 to 10 p.m. for an extended period of free study time. Chaeeun told me that some people she knew would even attend an academy afterwards, not finishing their business until about 2 a.m.
For all you students that complain about a long school day, try handling a school year in Korea.
The work these Korean students put into their studies is entirely focused on one main goal.
“The goal is to attend the highest university possible,” Chaeeun informed me. “In Korea, the subjects English, math and Korean are very important. There are lots of subjects here, making it really fun!”
She couldn’t stress enough to me that the idea of great success is what is at the core of the Korean education systems.
“You study to become as successful as possible; you study until death,” Chaeeun added.
As for the style of her studies, she explained to me that she had some difficulty making the transition between her Korean school and Homer-Center because the teaching is so different.
In Korea, the teachers change classrooms rather than the students. Not only is this a new change for her, but in Korea, the use of memorization was present in every class; here at Homer-Center, Chaeeun is finding that there is a lot more participation in the classroom setting than there was back home.
This is actually Chaeeun’s first time being in the U.S. and she finds the people to be really welcoming.
She expressed her surprise in the price of things as well by saying, “I think all of the stuff here is cheaper than Korea. It’s a lot cheaper than I thought!”
Chaeeun has come to love her new school life and has created some really nice relationships with some of our students along with her host family.
“I am really thankful to God for giving a nice family to me. They are really awesome and nice.”
Chaeeun applied to study abroad while in Korea and was then chosen by her host family to live in this area and attend school here.
Chaeeun describes her general view on Americans to be people who participate, are really happy, and enjoy things.
As for some extra little things about Chaeeun, she was excited to be a part of holidays such as Halloween and Christmas. In addition, she wants to learn something that isn’t available to her in Korea, like music, choir, art and gym.
Chaeeun also made the comment that she no longer has trouble finding different shoe sizes here. “When I was in Korea, there weren’t any shoes that fit me. But I can get them here!”
Just recently, both Chaeeun and Yeeun wore beautiful, traditional dresses to school to celebrate Korean new year, which was at the very end of January.
Chaeeun has a great interest in sports, but doesn’t exactly have many experiences since Korean girls don’t typically participate in such things — not even cheerleading. However, she has attended some of the varsity boys’ basketball games here and really enjoys the atmosphere.
“Watching the games is really fun and they are really, very good!”
On an ending note, welcoming these girls has really opened my eyes to a very different culture and it has been nothing but a neat experience to connect and compare two different worlds. We continue to look forward to their stay with us and the knowledge they have to offer.
With that, thanks for tuning into this week’s school news column for Homer-Center. Since there will not be a school article next week, we wish everyone a Happy Valentine’s Day in advance; more news and events are to come on Feb. 21.