[Letters] An expensive lesson

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[Letters] An expensive lesson

South Korea is ranked third in the world for exporting its talented people to English-speaking countries, especially to the United States. English became a necessity to get a job in Korea a long time ago. High school students spend about $230 per month on private English tutoring and then many of them leave the country to study abroad.

However, each year 44 percent of these students at major U.S. universities drop out of school. Students returning from the U.S. complain about tremendously high tuition and poor quality of school resources and services. However, I believe the core problem is the international students themselves. On campus, they tend to associate themselves only with people of the same nationality. They build a thick wall between themselves and American students. I’m a freshman international student at the University of Arizona, a major university in America. I often see many Korean students who are friends with only other Korean students. They are not willing to speak English within their group and they draw an unbreakable line between them and other students outside of their group. What is the point of coming to a foreign country to study if you only interact with people from your country?

Many international students argue that they have been hurt by American students. For example, I heard a story from my friend about having a rough relationship with her American roommate. Her roommate already had her own group of friends and did not make any effort to be friends with my friend. Day after day my friend was mildly depressed and finally she gave up making friends with Americans and started looking for Korean friends. However, dwelling on “hurts” will not help them to adjust to a new environment socially or academically. Even though they were hurt by some people, it is not right to generalize and stereotype that everyone will be the same. Korean students should take the initiative to break down any kind of walls - including language barriers, cultural shocks and biases, between them and domestic students. A recent research study conducted by Chun-Mei Zhao of Ohio State University concluded that friendship networks are critical factors to how international students successfully manage stress aside from financial issues. Successful studying overseas doesn’t just mean getting good grades but also becoming an active member in the society of the host country. We can’t share anything new and important with Korea if we don’t really open up to American culture. And we can’t open up to American culture if we don’t open up to American friends.

There are plenty of valuable sources and services that the U.S. provides to international students. There are services to help international students with visas and other immigration issues. There are also advisers to help international students adjust to a new culture and provide information on filing taxes and applying for scholarships.

At the University of Arizona, the International Students Program Service Office sends out weekly e-mails to the international students to notify them about social and academic events going on around campus. Unfortunately, not many of the international students pay attention to those e-mails. There are also free weekly writing improvement programs open for any students enrolled at the University of Arizona. Last fall, when I went to one of these sessions, every student there was a graduate international student except for me. Even this tells us that undergraduate international students do not make good use of the resources and services provided to them. They should be more interactive with their schools and look for what they need for themselves. They should stop waiting for someone to spoon-feed them.

Parents who send their children to foreign countries for education check the foreign currency rates daily and cannot stop sighing. I don’t know how many international students are mature enough to understand their parents’ burden, worry and concern. I just want to tell them one thing: International students, it’s time to break out from your shell and face the world.


Soo Kim,

University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona
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