To Korean students in U.S. colleges
First, students should have a goal for what they want out of their American experience — such as pursuing a graduate degree, working in the United States or returning to Korea. For international students, opportunities for U.S.-based internships, jobs and graduate programs are more limited and applicants must meet a higher standard in comparison to domestic students. For this reason, Korean students need to plan ahead to take pertinent courses, receive good grades and gain the relevant experience in college. One Dartmouth College graduate told us, “If you haven’t already, you should start thinking about the big picture and why and what want to study in the United States. You will fare much better if you have a sense of purpose and recognize the fact that you are on a different starting line than most of your American classmates.”
Second, students should be open to experiencing setbacks and disappointments. The aforementioned U.S. college graduate also stated, “Studying and living in the U.S. as a foreigner is not as romantic as it may sound. At one point or another, disappointment will come — probably in the earlier months of college. There will be culture shocks, language barriers and moments of doubt.” For many students, the transition from high school to college will be jarring — especially in a new setting away from their loved ones; some might find themselves struggling academically for the first time in their lives. For this reason, students should expect to be uncomfortable but continue to maintain a positive growth mindset that allows them to believe that they can continue to improve with proper effort and support. To this end, students should identify resources offered by their colleges, such as tutoring, office hours and mental counseling and surround themselves with a strong group of friends to help them through the most difficult times in college — everything from bad grades to heartbreaks.
Finally, students should be open to encountering new people and ideas in college. Many Korean students will find it easy to befriend other Korean students. However, it would be a mistake to limit their interactions in college to individuals from the same country or culture. American colleges provide fertile grounds for exposure to new ideas and new people from all over the globe. Getting to know peers from different backgrounds through school clubs and social events will help students to expand their understanding of the world and provide them with connections that could lead to additional contacts and opportunities in the future.
Pursuing an American college education is an exciting but potentially costly and stressful endeavor. To succeed, students should understand their own goals and motivations, identify resources to overcome potential challenges and expose themselves to new people and ideas.