Tuesday, April 25, 2017

5 Critical Tips for Studying Abroad

My junior year in college is almost over. I had lots of big positive changes that improved my studying abroad experience. I would like to share 5 tips that were critical in my American college life.

1. Professors are always there for you.

Going to college abroad is very scary because you have to take classes in your second or third language and you are away from your home. What if I don't understand what professor is saying? What if I don't hear of an assignment? What if there is a group project? Don't worry. Professors love getting questions and would like to help you. I have never seen any professor who was not willing to help international student. Too worried about taking a class in English? Ask your professor if it's okay to record the lecture, or at least let your professor know you are an international student who will  need lots of help. (But make sure you read the syllabus thoroughly before ask!)

2. Make local friends

This will help you improving your language the most. Once you make local friends, you will speak mostly English throughout the day and learn what Americans say in real life unlike textbook. The more you speak English, the more you get used to listening and speaking it. Then, it will eventually become your language. You will start think and dream in English. In addition to that, making local friends means you are having YOUR people around you.

3. Don't be shy/afraid

This is Asian's endemic problem. I struggled with this so much. Until my sophomore year, I never said a word in class. Nobody cared if I was in class with them. Even one of my professors pronounced my name wrong for the whole semester. I was just a extremely shy, typical Asian girl who looks like she doesn't speak English at all. I tried not to be shy so many times but what do I do? That's how I grew up. So I decided to USE my shyness. I was always the only Asian girl in my classes, and realized that shy Asian girl is my positioning. To build that image, I had to talk and get involved more. But I showed people my shyness. Eventually, people came and talk to me first and became interested in me and my culture. Indeed, people has become more generous and nicer to my mistakes! So if shyness is your weakness, turn it into your uniqueness.

4. Fabulous 4

Studying abroad is a hard experience both physically and mentally. Homesickness and loneliness will continuously make you depressed. You won't be eating well like when you had your home food. Whole new different environment your keep making you sick. Here's what I did called "Fabulous 4."

- Sleep 8 hours
- Eat nutritious food
- Exercise at least 30 minutes
- Meaningful interaction with others

It looks pretty simple but actually really hard to do it everyday. Since you are studying in foreign language, you need to study harder than others so always running out of time. Of course, it's hard to make time for sleep, exercise or interaction with others. Moreover, there are so many junk food in America.

5. Always ask ⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑

It's very hard to understand what people say when you are a newbie here. People talk too fast and use lots of slang. Asians, especially, tend to act like they understood even if they didn't. This is the BIGGEST mistake in studying abroad. I know it's embarrassing to ask people what they are saying. But please please make sure ask again or ask them to slow down. Otherwise, you will never learn that expression until you ask. Most people will say it again or even explain what they said unless they are in hurry.

Monday, April 24, 2017

No Rice, No Life

I'm Asian, and I need to have rice for every meal. If you didn't have rice, you can't say you had a meal. Am I not sick of rice? No, NEVER. Rice is must have dish for our meal.

In Korean, meal and cooked rice are a same word. There is also a proverb in Korean saying Korean's energy comes from rice. It means Koreans can study, work or survive only if we had rice.

When I first came to the U.S., the struggle was real. I thought I will never miss Korean food because I  loved Western foods like pasta, burger and pizza. 2 months later, I found myself googling how to cook rice in a microwave.

A year later, I finally bought a rice cooker at Target.

It was okay but totally different from Korean rice cooker. In Korea, rice cooker is not only to cook rice but to keep rice for 3-4 days. The one I bought has keeping warm function but does not work very well. When I first used it, I cooked rice and left it overnight (I did not unplug it). It was rock hard the next day so I had to threw it away.

This is what my Japanese roommate and I came up with. Freeze 'em! All I have to do is to microwave it for 2 mins. One day, my roommate and I were saying that if there is no rice in our freezer that will be the end of the world! Don't worry. It will never happen.



Sunday, April 23, 2017

I'm 24 but also 26(?)

Wait, what?

Yes, I have KOREAN AGE.

When I say that, NOBODY understands. Or if I calculate my age when I'm asked, they also get confused and ask me if I don't know my age.

Here's how Korean age works.

First of all, everyone is one year old the day they are born. Some people say we count fetus as life but I personally think this is not the reason. Secondly, everyone adds one year to their ages on "New Year's Day" altogether.

Then, 90% of Americans ask me "What? So everyone has same birthday?"

No, no, no.

Everyone has their own birthday, and we do celebrate our own birthday. But birthday is only when your International age gets a year older, which is not very important in Korean culture.

I know some of you are still confused. So here's my example:

I was born in 1992. The day I was born, I was one. After then, we counts only birth year. Therefore, I was two in 1993 and three in 1994.

Funny thing is a baby who is born in 31st of December will turn two the next day. This baby is actually two days old but two years old in Korean age. Because of this, Koreans use international for baby until about 36 months.

Koreans uses both Korean age and international age. Korean age is used for mostly social life. Drinking and smoking ages use Korean age, and introducing yourself to somebody. However, most of legal ages are International age. This is also confusing to Koreans so some people insist that we need to stop using Korean age.

Age is probably the most important thing in Korean culture. The word 'friend' applies only in same birth years. I can be a friend with some who was born in different year but I don't call them as my friend.

I just noticed that age in Korean culture is way more complicated than I thought.

So, If you are Korean, already be ready to explain this complication in 3-4 sentences. If you are American, I recommend you to research more about it. Or Studying in Korea as an exchange student is a great way to understand this weird age reckoning system.



Friday, April 21, 2017

Mother Nature Must Be Very Upset with Oklahoma!

The weather has been crazy this week! It reminded me again that I'm in Oklahoma. Living in Oklahoma for more than three years, I can tell you Oklahoma has the craziest weather in the world.

I'm from a city that has clear 4 seasons with smooth transitions between seasons. Yesterday's weather and today's weather are not that much different. Tomorrow will be pretty much same there. 

But not in Oklahoma!

When you feel like spring and fall has begun in Oklahoma, it ends in 2 weeks. Then, you will experience extremely hot in summer and extremely cold in winter. When the temperature hit 105 degree in the summer, I thought my weather app wasn't working properly. Last winter, it was 68 degree one day, and then all of sudden it went down to negative and snowed the next day. 


And My goodness! What the heck is thunderstorm? When it's so sunny out there that you can't even imagine it will rain later, it rains. I mean, it pours. Then, all of sudden, it gets sunny again just like nothing happened. 

This is obviously something I've never experienced before I came to Oklahoma. I'm from a city where the weather doesn't change dramatically. I've also traveled many different places, but there were no place with crazy weather like Oklahoma.

If you are studying abroad in Oklahoma, be aware of that!



Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Everyone Loves Present-tations!

UCO American Advertising Federation Competition Team won the 1st place for National Student Advertising Competition District 10 last Friday! And I was part of the team!

As an international student, it was a great experience I can never forget.

Since I don't work, I had more time than others. So I always asked the executives if there is anything else I can do. I think that really impressed the executives and the professor.

Here's how I joined the team and what I did.

The advisor professor was looking for a graphic designer last semester, and I feel confident with graphic design. So I joined AAF team this semester.

I thought I would definitely be in the creative team and working on graphic. However, I ended up being in the research team. I was very confused at first. Research needs lots of writing which I don't feel confident at all. I even asked the execs why I was in research team.

They said they found really good insights in me based on my secondary research. Plus, they thought I would be a why person who always asks why we are doing this, why we need to focus on this, etc.

After research, I thought I could finally work in creative team. Guess what? I was in WRITING TEAM. I was like "Are you kidding me? I'm not even a native speaker!"

So I asked them again. Why the heck am I in writing team now?

It was not like I was upset because I wanted to do graphic design. It was because I was afraid of writing and editing. I didn't want to be useless in the team.

However, the execs and the professor said I really am good at writing because I learned English properly. I don't use any slang. I barely have grammar errors or typos.

So I usually helped with proofreading. If a sentence is hard for me, it meant the sentence needs to be more concise.


I think the Korean culture in me helped a lot this time. I always tried to work extras and be committed.

Also, I learned that I am good at research and writing other than just graphics. I've always wanted to get a job related to graphics because I thought nobody will hire me for something else. It was a really good opportunity to find my talent.

Lastly, I learned how the real industry works. As an international student who hasn't had any internship yet, this was a perfect experience!

If you are an international student, join any kinds of competition team related to your future career. Even if you are not good at it, just go for it and try your best. I guarantee you will learn so many things that you can never learn from regular classes.



Monday, April 3, 2017

Yo-li con Yoni

Due to my major and studying in America, I get lots of interesting assignment.

For one of my classes, Digital and Social Communication, I had to creat a 'how to' video. So my friend, Manny and I teamed up and decided to do a cooking video.

Manny is hispanic, and I'm Korean. We came up with an idea of Mexican and Korean fusion recipe for the video. It was a Mexican burrito with one of Korean foods, Bulgogi (Grilled, thin, marinated beef).

Yo-li con Yoni!
(FYI, yo-li means cook in Korean, and con means with in Spanish.)

Being an international student turned out to be an advantage this time. We could have created a generic recipe video. Thanks to our diverse cultural backgrounds, we were able to create such a unique recipe video.

Shoutout to my partner, Manny Arias!



Thursday, March 23, 2017

Culture Shock Is Real

I got used to most of American cultures so far, but I still remember when I first came here.

I thought I was already Americanized before I came here. However, I was shocked so many times. Culture shock was REAL.

Everyone has a car
America is a huge huge country. Even Oklahoma is bigger than South Korea, so everything is so far away. Besides, since everyone has a car in Oklahoma, public transportation system is not really developed... Because of that, everyone get a car. It's like a cycle. As an international student from a such a tiny country, this was the hardest thing for my first 2 years before I got a car.

No umbrella
When it rains in Korea, EVERYONE uses umbrella. We don't like to get wet. But Americans seem like they don't care. Since almost  everyone has car, they only have to walk in the rain to the parking lot. I assume that might be the reason why they don't use umbrella.

Legal ages
- In America : 16 driving / 18 cigarette / 21 drinking
- In Korea: 18 for Everything. Glad that I came here when I was 21!

Small talk

This is my favorite American culture! On my third day here, I was on the line at Starbucks. It was a long line. Then, all of sudden, a lady behind me said "It's so nice out there, isn't it?" I was like "Is this person talking to me? Why?" Eventually, we had a small talk and found out that she adopted a kid from Korea. It was great! People were generally nice and friendly to everyone, but, in Korea, nobody talks to strangers. If a stranger talks to me in Korea, I would definitely think that person is a weirdo unless that person was asking the direction.

Price not including taxes
Price on menu or price tag is not your final price. In Korea, there is only final price on menu or price tag. So you know what you are paying at the end.

While we don't tip in Korea, American does. Servers here get paid less than minimum wage and mostly make money out of tips. I used to think tipping was a waste of money since employers pay enough to server in Korea, which already includes tips.

Wearing shoes in a house, sometimes even on the bed!

This was the most shocking thing when I first came to America. Since Korean takes off shoes in a house, there is less dirt on the floor (we still wipe the floor pretty often). Shoes are covered with lots of dirt and germs, and some Americans just get on the bed with those dirty shoes! I was literally shocked. Here's the second shock. they walked around in the house with barefoot. Their feet were turning black. In Korea, the place you wear shoes and the place you take off shoes are completely separate. I still haven't got used to this culture and will never get used to this.