"Studying Moms" and Their Children OverseasLike the typical mom-next-door, Ms.Shin (43) of Seoul, busied herself with house work, taking care of her children and husband. Her life suddenly turned upside down when she sent her daughter to a private junior high school in New York State last July. Shin stayed in New York for six months to help her young daughter settle down in her new environment. However, Shin could not leave her daughter but also could not stay any longer with her limited tourist visa. She registered at a community college in the area in order to be granted a student visa extending her stay.
The tuition for this devoted mother was $6,000 per semester for a mere 16 hours of course hours a week. Adding her daughter's expenses, the family spent some $20,000 in half a year on tuition alone.
There has been a gradual increase in the number of students going abroad to study and young students, as young as elementary school, are largely responsible for this growing number. And, for these kids studying abroad away from home, worried parents are increasingly enrolling themselves into local academic institutions to watch over them. Moms are finding themselves in the classroom again, not as parents but as students.
A Ms.Park(45) is living in Toronto, Canada and "studies" theology. Park has never been to church when she lived in Korea, but says she has no choice in extending her stay. "I often fall asleep in class because I hardly understand the Bible or English for that matter," confessed Park.
Another "studying mom" in Toronto, a Ms.Kim(40) entered as a student at a continued education center. She came to Canada with her two children who are presently attending school, herself included.
But going back to school after a 20-year hiatus is not easy. Failing grades threatening expulsion and thus a loss of their sutdent visa, pushes these mothers to cram for exams. Unfortunately, some fearful of failing, cheated and were caught cheating on exams oddly enough fearful of failing in the first place.
Of course, mothers are not the only ones having problems. Koreans who have immigrated and are living here in New York state or nearby east coast states constantly are sieged with relatives soliciting "favors" from their relatives back home in Korea, to house and take care of their children while studying States-side. But, immigrants are becoming more vocal insisting that handling their own children acan be difficult, let alone someone else's children. There are numerous stories of people who took their nephews and nieces in and end up stormed by a barrage of complaints from the parents back in Korea about their children who have grown up to be "not as expected", definite cases of culture shock.
"It's not easy to care for teenagers, even though family, who are thrown into a totally different cultural environment," said Song Sun-ho, a member of an education committee for the state of New York.
A recent study shows that Korean parents spend a total of 10 trillion won(about $90 billion) on education. This figure does not even include the amount spent on children studying overseas.
In Korea, May 5th is "Children's Day." On a day focusing on the importance of children, these findings seem sobering thoughts.
by Shin Jung-don