Speaking English: one step on the path of a promising career

Rebecca Dorsey Staff Writer

Geuma Lee

Geuma Lee is a 20-year-old student from the city of Cheungju in Cheung Pukto, South Korea. At Cheungju University, Lee studies Genetic Engineering and has a passion for forensics.

Explaining her interest in this field of study, Lee explains, “I like blood and to search for things. I’m interested in crime genetics.”

Lee partners the complex field of study at her university with dedicating a considerable amount of time to improving her English. This was the main reason she and her parents sought after her entering the exchange program at St. Martin’s University. Lee’s parents are both supervisors for a tape company in South Korea. Her younger sister is 18 and will be entering her freshman year at a university this March. For Lee, the coming months will be spent practicing English by taking English as a Second Language (ESL) classes. Next semester she hopes to take classes that will contribute to her major.

“I must study hard!” she exclaims.

As the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) exam is quickly approaching forESL students, it is crunch time to score adequate placement scores for American classes.

When she is not studying, Lee enjoys chatting with friends, going to the movie theater, playing tennis and basketball, and listening to Korean music. Meeting her host family in Seattle and walking around downtown Olympia are two trips Lee has enjoyed since arriving in January. She also loves going to Tofu Hut, located around the corner from St. Martin’s.

While her favorite food is sushi, Lee describes a few other dishes that are common in South Korea. A dish called pipim pap includes rice, pumpkin, carrot, red sauce, fried egg, and some greens. Other favorites include tofu, kimchee, and mandoo, a dish of vegetables, meat, and noodles coated in breading.

Although Lee has enjoyed her time in the U.S. thus far, there are several things that have come as a cultural shock to her. Lee claims there are many differences between the U.S. and where she is from. For example, food here is not nearly as spicy. Additionally, American soup, from what she has tried, tends to be thicker than Korean soup. Lee also laments that everything is so far away here, like supermarkets, which are much closer in South Korea. Buildings are much taller where she is from, and the streets are always crowded and busy. Although Washington’s weather is similar to that of South Korea, Lee notes that Americans do not dress warmly even when it is cold outside.

“Here, girls are very glamorous. Asian girls are not glamorous.” She laughs, “Look at me!”

One last pointed difference between the U.S. and South Korea is that “everyone is friendly. In Korea, no greetings, just face each other, but here everyone greets each other.”

While Lee describes how cordial Americans are, there is still a communication barrier that makes creating deeper relationships between international students and domestic students difficult to achieve. Lee explains what it is like to meet American students.

In one sentence, it is “hard. Of course, hard…So hard.”

She is nervous to talk to Americans because of her developing English skills. If Americans were to initiate the conversation, it would be easier to talk, and Lee says she would appreciate it.

Following Lee’s experience at St. Martin’s, she plans to finish her genetic engineering degree at her university and come back to the .S. to search for a job in research genetics.

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