Mine is a story slightly different from what most people expect. The typical exchange student story revolves around Friday night frat parties and football games. You've bound to hear about massive lecture halls packed with three balconies of students and tales about getting lost in the middle of a huge campus.
Like Ewha, Smith is a women's college. Despite controversy over whether or not to go co-ed, Smith has maintained its long-standing history of producing strong, independent women that continue to excel in a variety of fields. However, aside from the fact that the schools are comprised of women, Ewha and Smith have very little in common.
When I first arrived at Smith at the end of August, what struck me most was the way Smith embraces diversity. This doesn't just pertain to race, but also sexuality, culture, and economic status. Environmental conservation is highly encouraged and practiced, and this can be seen in the frequent use of bicycles by many professors and Smithies, and an active recycling community.
A large number of vegetarians also make up the student body, in hopes to decrease consumption. This all seemed a bit mind-boggling at first, but it has shown me how drastically different schools across the country, and even the world, can be.
Two things that I especially like about Smith are the classes and the dining system. Because of the small number of students, I've been able to enjoy taking classes as small as ten people, and I've never taken one with more than fifty students. This has allowed me to take responsibility in being a contributor in class, and to take the initiative instead of waiting for it to be handed down to me. The dining system at Smith is also quite unique, as there are fifteen dining halls that serve a variety of different genres of food. Depending on how you've feeling that day, you may choose to dine in the Asian, Mediterranean, vegetarian, vegan, or traditional dining hall.
One of the toughest things as an exchange student is probably how you make yourself known. It's always difficult to establish yourself, especially when you have only a year to do so and your surroundings are so foreign. My advice to anyone who is concerned about taking part in the exchange student program would be to just go for it. Take new chances, learn things you never imagined learning, and have fun.
During the past seven months, I've become vice president of an anti-discrimination organization called Size Matters, I wasa treasurer of my house, I've organized a hurricane relief walk, and I've taken up squash. I think the opportunities that lie in front of you are many, and the resources inexhaustible.
My time here may have been short, but I've learned to deal with difficult decisions and faced discouraging obstacles alone, and those are the things I believe have made this a fulfilling and unforgettable year.
Cho Min-kyung (International Studies, 4) is currently an exchange student at Smith College.