Differences in Korean and American Student Life - The UOS Times
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Differences in Korean and American Student Life
Mark Hamilton  |  webmaster@uos.ac.kr
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[0호] 승인 2006.06.08  
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This essay is primarily intended for Korean students who are considering going to an American university.

My hope is that you will persevere through whatever difficulties you may encounter so that you can gain invaluable life experience. Living in another culture is demanding work, but with preparation and knowledge you can get on the fast track to benefitting from living in a college environment in the United States.

The first, and possibly the most important, information that I can give is not to believe everything you hear or read. Stereotypes, myths, and even outright lies about life on the American Campus are common in Korea, but, as in Korea, each area has its own characteristics.

I doubt that every college campus in Korea experiences the same level of political protest that Yonsei University does; would it be fair of me to describe all of Korea based on the actions of a violent few? Likewise, fear of crime in American may become an inappropriate focus. Paying attention to horror stories is a good idea, but expecting the worst (or the most) may lead you to disappointment.

Although the following may not apply directly to your experience, there are some broad areas of cultural difference that I fell one may encounter. Chief of those is in the area of independence. The American experience normally requires students to grow up and become more independent more quickly that in Korea.

while Korea high school students devote almost all of their time to their studies, American students often have after-school jobs to help pay for the expense of a car since relying on Mom and Dad can be quite inconvenient and even embarrassing on a Saturday night. This helps prepare the American for living away from home during the college years; in contrast, most of the Korean students I taught still lived at home with their parents.

Another major difference between the korean and American experience is in the social structure on campus. My Korean students often talked about their sonbae or hubae, words that are not easily translated into English. And the Sonbae and Hubae were always in the same campus club.

In My [American] opinion, it seemed as if friends were almost structures into campus life, something that I had not experienced during my college years. The friends I had from college came from many different clubs, but we did not have a relatively formal structure to find each other. It took some initiative to find each other.

Of course, I could go in ad nauseam about cultural differences, but humans are fundamentally the same across the Earth. And, generally, good manners will be understood across cultures, even if there an occasional exception to this. As you gain life experience in a different culture, you will find out for yourself the different ways of expressing what you feel to others(and language is only part of this).

I strongly recommend reflecting what you have read or heard against your own experience. Then, your new environment can make real sense to you. Just do not let fear make your decisions for you. Be curious. Try.
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