A hard start in America turns into warm storyBefore I went to the United States as an exchange student last year, I did have some negative feelings about America. I did , however, like the sitcom “Friends.”
On my arrival at Pittsburgh International Airport, the customs official asked me why I looked so different from my passport picture. I explained that I had lost some weight and cut my hair. But he kept looking at me and consulted with his colleague, who joined him in scrutinizing my face. I felt like an animal in a zoo. Finally, they allowed me to enter the country.
Then my luggage went missing. Being alone in a strange place made the experience that much more traumatic. When I approached the baggage claim counter, the clerk was busy talking on the phone ― and ignoring me. I waited 30 minutes to file my missing luggage report. When I finally arrived in Greenville, Pennsylvania, at the Thiel College campus, I had come to a hasty conclusion: Americans are so unkind! I wanted to go home.
Before classes started, I spent most of my time watching the squirrels outside my window. While other international students were having fun with their host families, I was stuck in my dormitory room since no family had picked me to live with them during the welcoming reception. Just before classes began my roommate, an American girl, moved in with me. But I quickly found that just about the only thing she and her boyfriend did for fun was watch pro wrestling on television. Again, I was left out.
A few weeks later, salvation found me at a church event a Korean friend had invited me to. I was standing in line to get a hotdog when a lady suddenly asked my name and whether I had a host family. I said I did not. Then she said, “Well, then I am going to adopt you.”
That is how I became a member of the Sankey family. Bill and Rosalie took care of me and let me stay at their home every weekend and even during the winter break.
The couple’s three children and seven grandchildren all lived nearby. At first, I felt dizzy trying to keep track of all those people at family gatherings. But they welcomed me with so much warmth. I never imagined I would build such a wonderful relationship in a foreign country.
When I said good-bye to Bill and Rosalie at the airport at the end of the school year, I cried so hard and reached a new conclusion: Americans are so nice! I did not want to go home.
by Kim Hae-young