Eye on 'Cuse: Sunghee (Erin) Kim
By Jiaman (Maggie) Peng
Expectations for American culture, a taste of diversity and life on The Hill
Sunghee Kim, or Erin as she goes by, applied to over 20 U.S. universities when she decided to go abroad for a semester from Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea. Syracuse University was fourth on her list.
“They think it’s necessary to go abroad, not only for experience but also to get a job,” Kim explained that her parents were supportive of her decision to go abroad, but she herself knew the trip was more than just an addition to her resume.
Then a sophomore, Kim wanted to improve her English while continuing her business studies. Beyond that, she looked forward to learning more about America’s diversity and inclusive culture that “respect[s] people who have their own beliefs, [whether it’s] religion or diet.”
But right before she arrived in Syracuse mid-August, she said that she was actually afraid to pass the customs declaration because of news she’s seen about President Trump’s travel regulations. So far Syracuse is the only U.S. city she’s ever been in, but she looks forward to touring Los Angeles and Las Vegas on her own over Thanksgiving break. Her mother will also visit America and they will travel to cities like New York and Washington D.C. together around New Year’s time.
At one point during our conversation in the early afternoon, her friend Jiwon Kim, who was sitting next to us, took out her toothbrush, applied toothpaste over it, and walked away to the restroom. Jiwon is also an exchange student from Korea University in Seoul.
Kim said that she brushes her teeth three times a day after every meal in fear of cavities, explaining that Korean parents often told their children to do so: “brush your teeth three times a day, three minutes each.” She said that in high school, she’d eat lunch with her friends, after which the whole cohort proceeded to the bathroom to brush their teeth together.
“It’s not a Korean thing,” said Kim, but she acknowledged that many Koreans do it and Americans don’t do this.
With only one semester to spend at SU, Kim has ventured out of Whitman for a wider taste of the college experience. She joined the belly dance club on campus and thought it interesting to see people find passion in an activity that didn’t originate in this country. She also takes photos for 360 Magazine, hoping to gain a broader view of the university life in America.
As an international student, she felt that Americans are open to the idea of talking to strangers and foreigners.
“Diversity is kind of a natural thing in the U.S…. we don’t have that kind of diversity in Korea,” said Kim, “I think it’s really nice to see diverse people, inclusive activities and the respect for diversity.”
There is an entire world of stories on the Syracuse University campus just waiting to be explored. In “Eye on ‘Cuse,” sophomore Jiaman (Maggie) Peng captures a new narrative every week.