Hello from Handong
by Paige Vandergriff
Meet Chris Kim, SoMang Park and WooChan Ahn, the three Korean exchange students enrolled at Grace this fall; they join us from their home school, Handong Global University in Pohang, South Korea, and are eager to explore where God will lead them on this campus and in this culture during the coming year.
Each of them walks a unique educational path: Ahn is studying Life Science; Park’s majors are International Relations and English, which she plans to use to teach English back in Korea; Kim has combined Construction Engineering and Performing arts—her passion is theater. However, regardless of course of study, all three are united by the desire to experience living abroad immersed in foreign culture. Although Kim did study in Africa for seven years while her parents served as missionaries before enrolling at Handong, this is the first time any of the students has visited the U.S.
Of the many cultural changes Kim, Park and Ahn have undergone so far, all three were quick to interject “Food!” when asked what things they missed about home. Overall though, while Alpha’s Asian dishes are “not really Korean” according to Kim, the students report generally enjoying campus dining; besides, she continued, Handong doesn’t serve meals buffet style—which means no dessert everyday like at Grace!
Along with food, our Korean friends have been settling in to another year of busy college life and adjusting to Grace’s eight-week session system. Even with fast-paced classes coupled with the challenge of language, the exchange students have found time to get involved across campus. Kim and Park have been getting to know others through SAB activities and hall events; Ahn enjoys bonding with other guys over intramural sports.
This isn’t to say that becoming familiar culturally and socially has been without its challenges. The three have each grown close to their roommates, but Kim did comment that relationships are more intimate in Korea. She also explained that “Koreans are kind of shy to approach people… if people approach us and talk to us, we’d be glad to talk to them, but to start [a conversation] is hard,” especially with language barriers. Still, God has been using these obstacles to increase the students’ thankfulness for this opportunity to grow and for the time available to invest in prayer.
Kim closed the interview by stating that all three of the Korean students would love to talk to any Grace students who had interest in participating in Handong’s exchange program and share what their home university has to offer. So if you see Kim, Park or Ahn in class, at Alpha, or anywhere around campus, be sure to say “an nyoung” (that’s “hello” in Korean) and welcome them to our student body.