I still remember the day before leaving from Korea, my home country. I was extremely nervous because I felt like I wasn’t prepared for studying abroad. Although I exaggerated my English skill and intelligence through my resume, I already knew I didn’t do anything for studying abroad except watching my favorite American TV series without subtitles. Finally, I found, at this moment, that I was such a coward. Through 6 months, studying in the U.S., I had a lot of fun hanging out with American friends and learned a lot of American culture and its diverse society.
Before I came to WVWC, while I was in Korea, I made up my mind to do several things at there. First thing I wanted to do was to experience group activity in the U.S. To accomplish this goal, from the first semester, I started looking for the auditions of sororities and student union groups. And fortunately I entered the audition of Felinez which is Hiphop dance team in WVWC and sorority group APO which is social service group. Belonging to these two groups, I had many chances to make new friends and learn how to communicate with Americans and also I could learn American group culture. Since I had to spend much time to prepare the performance of dance team and went to the meeting and service of APO, I had a hard time managing my studies during first fall semester. There was a hard time in blending with the members of the group, because they had already bonded closely to each other and also there was a cultural gap between me and them which cannot be easily shared. Fortunately, they were not rednecks, since I’ve participated enthusiastically in group activities and dance practice, they started to recognize me as one of the members and became my friends. Nowadays, I am so proud of myself that I was accepted as a member by them.
Second thing I wanted to do was learning about their true culture through my own experience. My college, WVWC is in small town, Buckhannon which is really calm and peaceful. When I first came here, I was so surprised that there were only a few Asians in this college. For first one or two months in last semester, whenever I went to cafeteria, I could feel that everyone in the cafeteria was staring at me, like looking at celebrity or monkey in the zoo. I was really frustrated of their attentions. When I walked through the street in the town, even the car was stopped to watch me. Since most students in WVWC were not exposed to diverse ethnicity, (more than 90% of the students are whites, Caucasians) they were somewhat afraid of me but also interested in me because I was the first Asian they’ve met. As for me, through them, I could learn a part of real American culture what they called, “West Virginia’s Spirit.” Spending time with my roommate’s family during Thanksgiving break, I could learn how they value their family and get along each other.
The last one that I wanted to accomplish was studying hard as I can and get good grades. Before I came to the WVWC, I’ve prepared for studying abroad by taking lectures in English. I tried to take at least one lecture in English per semester from freshman year. And before I took exchange program, I had studied at U.C. Berkeley during summer session to make sure that I can handle exchange student’s rough life in the U.S. This experience helped me a lot, because I could experience part of American school life. Most U.S. universities and colleges have several programs for foreign students for whom English is second language. Whenever I have a problem with understanding lectures, I can register tutor program or ask help to learning center or professor.
Actually, it is not easy to get along with Americans, foreigners who don’t have any sharable cultures and memories. I was a totally stranger among them for first few months. Since I kept trying to be open-minded and show myself to impress them, I could enjoy my life the most in here and find what I can do best.
Jang Jin-ah (Economics, 4) is currently studying at West Virginia Weselyan College, U.S., as an exchange student.