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April 30, 2013
By Philip Gruenwald, media relations assistant
Hyeji Do left her home and family in spring 2009 in Seoul, South Korea, to study at Northwest Missouri State University. Now that she’s graduating from Northwest, Do is thankful for the person who suggested she attend the University: her sister Hyemin, who studied at Northwest in 2008.
“Because English is so important in Korea, she suggested to me, ‘Why don’t you come here and study?’” Do said. “She said I would be able to learn English better than at other universities. She also said it’s a quiet and safe environment.”
Do came to Northwest seeking a deep understanding of English and an education in marketing. Although she missed her family and home in South Korea, she challenged herself to invest in her education. Soon, she regarded other students as her family, and Northwest as her home.
“I started out staying at my apartment and going to class and then going back to my apartment – no other activities or trying to make American friends,” Do said. “For a fundamentals of oral communication homework assignment I interviewed Dr. Jeff Foot (Northwest’s Director of International Affairs), and he gave me this advice: ‘If you want to make your study abroad experience better, you need to try something different to make a change.’”
With his advice, Do made some changes. She was one of a few South Korean students at Northwest so she started the Korean Student Association to network and communicate with other students like her. She volunteered with the Intercultural International Center and soon was hired as a desk attendant. She even helped students from Asia become acclimated to Northwest. Do valued the importance of adjusting to living in America because she was once in that position herself.
Do’s professors also were happy to help her.
“All of my professors helped me a lot, by giving me extra notes to understand lectures better,” Do said. “Other students also were so nice and willing to help me to understand and keep me up with group work.”
One of the reasons Do chose Northwest was its distance from Korean-speaking communities. Separated from the culture she was raised in, she enjoyed absorbing American culture and observing differences between the two.
“Americans are so independent,” Do said. “I used to care about what others thought about me too much. I used to do what people would think is good or what my parents would want. However, through the years in the United States, I realized that what I had been doing was wrong. I realized none of my American friends to that. They follow what they want and do what they want to do.”
When Do graduates from Northwest, her mother will be watching from the audience. It will be her first time visiting Do at Northwest, and it will be the first time in two years that Do has seen her mother. After graduation, Do hopes to work in marketing at a Korean company in America so she can utilize her English and Korean language skills.
She said she will miss everything about Northwest, her home away from home. Do is glad her sister recommended it in 2008, and when it came time for her younger brother to look at universities, Do recommended Northwest to him. After consideration, her brother, Changhwan, enrolled at Northwest as a management information systems major in fall 2012.
“I’m not helping him a lot because I want him to adjust and experience American culture by himself like I did,” Do said. “Study abroad is not just for studying in classes in the United States. It’s to connect with other students in other cultures and learn other cultures, too.”
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
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