Jeewoo Choi, a freshman studying chemistry, sat on a plane carrying her 12 hours away from home — 12 hours away from her 17th-floor apartment and quality public transportation. After a lifetime in South Korea, she sat on a plane preparing to continue her schooling in the United States.
Throughout high school, Choi spent 17 hours a day in class or studying. She accomplished this by familiarizing herself with good study habits from a young age. Her situation illustrates the typical life of a student in Seoul, South Korea.
Hundreds of hours of studying lead up to taking a major test called the Suneung. This test comes around once a year and stands as a requisite for getting into university.
Choi passed this exam and decided to further her education at a Church school to improve her faith. This desire brought her across the world to BYU-Idaho.
While Rexburg’s population of 28,300 is a whisper of Seoul’s population of nearly ten million, Choi found charm in the small town.
“There is a better balance between play and school,” Choi said. “In Korea, there is no balance.”
More than just a difference in workload balance, Choi noticed a difference in student to professor relations in the United States. In Korea, students bow to their professors and hand in their assignments respectfully with two hands. Age plays an important role in the respect shown to others.
Choi adjusts her actions to match the casual style of American relationships and only occasionally bows to professors.
“We’re getting used to it,” Choi said, nodding to her roommate, Hyunbi Hwang, a freshman studying geobusiness and data analytics, who is also from South Korea. “The culture is different,” Choi said.
Choi enjoys the American custom of opening doors for others. A simple act that is done on campus at least a hundred times every day rarely happened in South Korea. Huang agreed with this sentiment.
The kindness of opening doors for others allowed them to forgive Americans for their confusing sense of humor.
“We can understand what people are saying, but it’s not funny,” Huang said, laughing with Choi. “I never understand why people are laughing. Korean humor is really fun.”
The cultures of Korea and the United States differ, yet these differences benefit Choi by expanding her perspective of life as she experiences them first hand.