By Seanne Coates
On April 8, 2017 Doyun Song met up with her friends in D.C. for the annual Japanese festival.
Then they took a 40 minute walk to see the cherry blossoms that had just bloomed a few weeks before. Then they went on to see the Washington monument, and the Lincoln Memorial.
This was an everyday sight for everyone else who was from the D.C. area but for Song, this was her first time in D.C and it also might be her last.
The past nine months is actually Song’s first time not just in D.C. but in the United States. She is currently an international student from South Korea at Towson University for the 2016-2017 school year.
“I decided to travel before I graduate, because once I graduate I will never be able to travel abroad, because I have to work,” Song said.
Song is majoring in Business Administration and has made many friends at Towson while simultaneously working on her school work. Though she seems to fit right in with the legions of university students Song mentions how she notices subtle differences between U.S. and South Korean students.
“People’s mindset is really different,” Song said. “American culture is more focused on the individual person, while in Korea more people put the team above the individual.”
In the U.S. it is known that personal achievements are important and ideas such as if one works harder they will go further in life, and be more successful. In South Korea group achievements are more important. It is less about how this will benefit me and more about how will this benefit my team, and my family.
“But it’s not that you guys don’t care, American people generally have relatively good etiquette, such as holding the door for other people,” Song said.
Throughout campus students hold the door for others without being asked too, in South Korea however that is an odd gesture and something that does not happen often.
“Over in the U.S., a lot have students have cars, so I think it’s easier for students to get off campus, compared to South Korean students.”
Because South Korea isn’t that large in size compared to the U.S., cars aren’t as necessary as they are in the U.S., especially in the big cities, because most places are much closer in distance compared to the distance between cities and states in the U.S.
Though the size and transportation in the U.S. was different, Song says the biggest difference by far is the language.
“Since this is my first time to really live in the U.S., I am struggling with a lot of things. For example if I go to a café and order coffee they might have a hard time understanding me,” Doyun said.
It is hard to learn another language, let alone travel to another country alone, and try and speak the language it can be nerve wracking. But this is not Song’s first time abroad. Prior to coming to the U.S. last year, she stayed in Germany for a semester as well.
“Germany was good, it was actually a little different from my time at Towson,” Song said. “Back then I had a lot of international friends from Europe, Mexico, Columbia, but here I don’t have a lot of international friends, because there aren’t a lot of programs for us to get to know one another.”
Traveling abroad is a good way to meet new people, as well as explore new areas besides the certain place that one may be visiting. But Song already knew this and planned her trips to Germany and the U.S. around this fact.
“Germany just like Towson is a good location that allows easy travel to other countries.” Song said
“The professors take care of because they know we are international students. When they grade our exams they tend to be more generous,”
Though her experience is different from the average student, Song has grown accustomed to U.S. culture and has no problems making friends.
Song has even attended some on campus clubs such as the Japanese Language and Culture Organization also known as JLCO.
“Doyun is very smart, and caring,” said Niles Rodgers a Towson student, member of JLCO, and friend of Song’s. “She’ll ask you about your day, even if you don’t initiate talking to her and she has a good sense of humor.”
“The experience has been pretty good, and I know more Americans, and I know more about how they think and behave and I think it’s cool to know these different things about them,” Song said.
Song though sad that she is leaving once the semester ends is happy with the amount of fun she has had on and off Towson’s campus. She has made new friendships that she hopes will continue even after she goes back to South Korea.
My time here has been good. I think it’s cool to know something different about other people, and their culture,” Song said.
But before she leaves for good she is hoping to do a few more exciting things, like go to the Baltimore Museum of Art and go to Georgetown in D.C. so that she can see the waterfront and enjoy the small town setting that Georgetown offers.