South Korean enjoys choices at USC
For an average American high school student the school day starts around 8 a.m. and lasts until 3 p.m.
That’s not the case for United South Central foreign exchange student Ju-Yeong Park.
Back home in Daegu, South Korea, she attends school from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
“Everything is about school and learning,” Park says. “There are no athletic groups, or music groups, or anything. Those can be considered distractions from our studying. It can be very stressful at times.”
According to Park, her all-girls high school goes until 5 p.m., but they are required to study in self studying rooms afterwards. There are even “teacher guards” who make sure the students stay on task.
“I try not to think about South Korea while I’m here,” Park explains. “Getting involved in American culture is something I really wanted to experience because there is not much opportunity back home.”
According to Rita Thisius, Park’s host mother, they were interested in Park because her biography indicated she liked animals and was interested in learning how to play tennis. Also, she wanted her only daughter, Linsey Thisius, to have a sister because she grew up with three brothers.
“She has been nothing short of amazing,” Thisius says. “We love how she played tennis and got involved.”
The Thisius family has plenty of animals on their farm in Wells. Rita was nervous at first because she didn’t want Park to think they were crazy farmers obsessed with animals. Park was introduced to their snakes, geckos, dogs, cats, alpacas, goats, pigeons, pigs, cattle, ducks, chickens and their peacock.
“All of the animals here are so loving,” Park says. “I find it interesting that the indoor dogs are so smart.”
Wanting to dive head first into American culture, Park participated in junior varsity tennis at USC. She surprised herself how well she competed; Park even earned All-Conference JV.
It helped that Linsey Thisius was a State tennis player. She helped Park and taught her about the game because she didn’t know how to swing a racket or even any of the rules.
“When I was younger I played badminton,” Park says. “I thought it would be fun to try something new. Having Linsey really helped me. She is a great player. When she went to the State tournament, I got to go and see her compete in Minneapolis.”
Park also plays the drums in band at USC. The South Korean native is really looking forward to going to New York City for a band trip.
Two days after Park arrived at the Thisius farm, the family took her to Wisconsin Dells. One of the highlights was getting to ride the ducks, Park says.
Park also enjoyed spending time with an old middle school friend who was a foreign exchange student in Iowa when she first arrived. The two went to the Minnesota State Fair together.
Park admitted that she was skeptical the first time she viewed “Google Earth” the Thisius home.
“There were so many fields,” she says. “I am used to Daegu, which has over one million people living there.”
It was Park’s father who finally pushed her over the edge to do the foreign exchange student program.
She misses her family, but knows she probably won’t get another chance like this. Park Skypes with her mother, father and her younger sister, Geon-Yeong, 11.
According to Park, it has been a great overall experience. The people she is surrounded by make the trip worth it.
“My first impression of the farm was that it was pretty,” Park explains. “The front yard and backyard is so colorful. We don’t have pretty landscape like this. I am so thankful for the Thisius family because they have made me part of their family.”