Though I was thinking that I, myself was a pretty open and liberal person who knows American culture well, it took me a while to get used to real Floridians. Many were different from what I expected as an exchange student and the cultural difference was a bigger problem than I thought. It was hard to make friends for first several months even though I leaved in a dorm, where I shared room with two other students. It was even hard to see each other’s face with them. Because I was not that familiar with American’s individualism, at first I thought they were imdifferent. Also on the second semester, I used double room which I shared with one American girl, and she took her boy friend into our room everyday. For me, it was very awkward situation but it seemed natural for her and even after several arguments with me, her boy friend was still in the room. By going through these situations, I found myself growing as a mature person who can handle human-related problem.
On the other hand, I met so many good people who I’ll never forget. Though some natives made me feel that Americans are so individualistic, still some of them were not, and in fact, once I got rid of their fence of individualism, I became their family. After the first few months there were good friends who were always there to help me out. With those friends, I experienced various things that I would have never been able to do if I just stayed in Korea. Also during 4 months of long summer vacation, I was able to have a great time because of them.
If someone asks me how much I liked my life in Tampa, I would say “Now I love it so much more than when I was actually there.” People don’t really know what they got when they actually have it. The year 2009 will remain as one of the most precious time of my life that I can recollect over and over again. Tampa is not Miami so you might be disappointed at first, but I bet you will like in the end.
* Kim Hyo-in (English, 4) studied at University of South Florida, Tampa.