By: Choi Soo-an (International Studies, 4) is an exchange student at New York University.
"A frog in a well," as the Korean saying goes, can only see what the narrow opening of the well permits. She has no desire to learn further, no motivation to jump higher. Some who may be afraid of what is beyond, who are complacent with what is familiar, choose to be that frog by choice. Ambitious students of Ewha, such as I, do not. When I seized the opportunity to leap out of the well, there wasn? a better place to broaden my perspective than at a school in ?he capitol of the world, New York University (NYU).
I had a bit of a fantasy about college life in the U.S., which I discovered to be all wrong as soon as I arrived in New York. Being in the largest city in the world makes the typical life at NYU drastically different from a small-town college. Football games and frat parties are obsolete. There isn't a quad for all of the students to congregate after class. Dorms are more like private apartments, not a place for kids to leave their doors open and have late night pizza fests in the hall. In a school notorious for lacking a sense of community, it was hard for me to fit in right away.
Going to class was the only time I felt like I attended NYU. They ranged from 10-student seminars to introductory courses of more than two hundred kids. I had taken several courses on politics and economics before, and I was surprised that the professors at NYU never took a neutral stance when teaching. They clearly stated their opinions and encouraged students to disagree. The kids would constantly argue that the professor's assumptions or calculations were wrong, to the point where I felt they were being disrespectful. Instead of getting offended, however, the professor appreciated that students were paying keen attention. In this atmosphere, I became more comfortable with speaking up in class myself.
After class, everyone goes off to their own activities. Many students work or intern part-time during the semester. Having a student visa poses many constraints, but I found an on-campus job to cope with the city's high living expenses. Also, I kept my eyes and ears open for events that were being held around the city. I attended the annual Student Conference on U.S. Affairs held at the US Military Academy, where college students from various countries came to act as US foreign policy advisors. Being a student at NYU, I've become more proactive in searching for opportunities rather than waiting for things to happen.
The most valuable outcome of my year abroad, however, is that I have simply grown up. Living in New York is getting a dose of the real world. I have always lived with my parents, who provide me with everything I need. Here, I had to pay my own bills, keep track of paychecks, and file income taxes. When I got sick, there was no one to take care of me. Such fundamental changes shook me to the core so that even things like studying or making friends did not come so easily as before.
As the year passed, however, I got over my initial insecurities. By realizing that it is possible to overcome any obstacle I may face, I grew stronger. During my year in New York, I finally became an adult, not just by age, but by experience. Although I might have been happier if I had just stayed as a frog in the well, I cannot stay satisfied with bliss that comes from ignorance. I am too much of an ambitious Ewhaian to settle for that. After my year abroad, I now know that the well is no longer enough it is time for this frog to take on the world.