Stony Brook University, which I went to study for a year as an exchange student, is in Long Island, a suburb located in south eastern New York, east of New York City. The campus is in a very peaceful suburban area, but it was close enough to go visit New York City every weekend. So I was able to experience both the life in the city and the one in the suburb--I went to classes during the weekdays, enjoyed one of the dormitory parties on Fridays, and strolled around New York City on weekends.
One of the things that interested most was party culture in America, as we don’t have any in Korea. At first, I just couldn’t grasp the idea of people who are not really close get together, and have fun talking and dancing. My first party I went to was a dormitory party and I was kind of randomly invited by one of the hosts of the party. Out of curiosity, I went to this party with a friend and then the party scene that I used to see from a movie came into reality. I felt a bit shy to talk to somebody that I don’t know, but it didn’t take me a long time to adjust to the culture. I learned that the mindset that you need to have at the party is that “don’t be afraid to make a mistake and open yourself up.”
That lesson at the party applied to my life in America and it worked well. I tried to approach people first, not being afraid of being awkward or embarrassed. As a result, I got to have diverse friends from Eastern Europe, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, and Asia. I liked the fact that I was placed in a completely new environment and it was okay to be completely myself and be true to my desires.
Another mindset that I had was to experience as much as you can do. It is simple and what many exchange students think of, but as the new life falls into a routine, it is difficult to escape from the comfort in daily living.
Even when I was in Korea I used to get busy with a lot of work so much that did not really go on trips often.
Thanks to my friends who liked to travel, I got to travel some cities such as Boston, Washington D.C., Chicago, and Miami. I liked that my friends and I planned the trip by ourselves; booking flight ticket, do a little research about attractions in the city, and budgeting for the trip. Each city has different atmosphere, different buildings, and different people, which made me refreshed whenever I got back from the trip.
So the parties and travels actually gave me a whole new perspective of life. Before I went to the U.S., I used to live a career-focused life and didn’t really understand the true joy of traveling or having fun. Now that I get back, I think we sometimes need to take a break from our work or study, and truly enjoy the moment of our lives that will never come back. The dream that was almost one year long changed my life.
Kim A-hyun (Economics, 4) studied at the Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York for one semester.