Sujin, or Irene as her friends know her, is a 16-year-old sophomore from South Korea attending school in Wisconsin. Irene shares that after spending a year in Washington state with her natural family, and attending public school as an 8th grader, she decided to become an exchange student.

“I just enjoyed how education was done differently in the States from Korea. I wanted to learn more English and meet new people with different backgrounds. I’ve always hoped to be an international person,” Irene reflects.

Her Local Coordinator, Gabby, shares that Irene adjusted perfectly to the PSE program from the first day. She describes Irene as smart, kind, very talented, hard-working, and extremely sweet and says that Irene embodies many positive qualities as an international student.

“She is respectful of rules and is always willing to use the English language to communicate even when interacting with other students from her country,” says Gabby.

Irene appreciates that she can choose her own classes and engage in extra-curricular activities in her American high school. Gabby mentions that she appreciates Irene’s participation in school activities as well as her willingness to making friends of all nationalities.

“This opportunity gives students time to find their interests and talents doing special things. Just studying in such a free and dedicated environment has motivated me every day to work hard,” Irene shares.

One very special interest that Irene has been able to develop and enhance in her high school is Law. Her passion for and interest in the legal field emerged when she began learning about history and government in middle school. She shares that her true potential was displayed when she joined her school’s mock trial team which deals in both civil and criminal cases.

“I’ve considered being a lawyer someday, so I thought it would be beneficial to learn more about how trials work. I did very well in my audition and was chosen for the team. I love being able to observe and participate in a trial,” she shares.

Irene’s participation on the mock trial team has given her invaluable, real world experience.

“It showed me what I would be doing in a court if I became a lawyer in the future. Even though I played a witness on the team this year, I learned a lot of things that I wouldn’t have from books or research. I plan on trying it for next year and working hard to learn more.”

This year, Irene enjoyed being involved in civil cases whereby the team dealt with many issues including proving negligence on a large property. Both civil and criminal cases offer great learning opportunities, and she looks forward to experiencing a criminal case next year.

“For a criminal case, I think it’s more focusing on one incident and the testimonies of witnesses whereas civil cases are all about money and responsibility,” she explains.

Irene has developed and grown in many other areas as well while on the PSE program. For one, her cultural awareness has heightened. She explains:

“American culture gives you more freedom and independence, but it also requires you to be very responsible and open to new things. From my insight, a lot of different cultures make up the American culture, and you have to respect that.”

Irene has taken advantage of other opportunities at school. She joined her school’s Bowling Club last year and learned useful techniques. “I made a lot of friends since bowling is an easy and fun sport!” she shares.

Irene has also relished in her time on her school choir.

“I have really been enjoying the community, especially when we do concerts and solo ensembles. I received first place on my piano and classical solos before going to state. I liked the experience and would definitely do it again next year!”

Irene’s host mother, Kayla, describes her as a typical teenage girl who is very active in school activities. She says their family has been open to different cultures especially because her husband, Edward, is from Ghana.

“As we are a first-year host family, it’s been great because Irene is very smart and great at school,” she shares. “Irene has cooked traditional Korean dinners for us which a great experience for us.”

Irene enjoys spending time with her host family and appreciates that they have allowed her to invite friends over for meals on occasion. She appreciates the experiences they have shared together, such as attending a Ghanaian party over the holidays with her host family and many of her Host Dad’s friends.

“I am very thankful that I met all my friends, teachers, host parents, and all the people as I was enrolled in this program. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything, and I always appreciate my parents for their support.”

Irene shares that going to Homecoming with her friends was a favorite memory.

“Thanks to the PSE program, I have been making good memories every day…whether it’s feeling proud of working hard academically or hanging out with friends. I especially enjoy meeting new people and making them new friends or family.”

Irene shares that her exchange experience has helped shape her into who she is today.

“I would not have a broader perspective and acceptance of things had I not been on the program. I think I’ve become a mature and thoughtful person as I faced different people and situations.”

Her exchange opportunity has motivated Irene to think about her future goals. Her main focus is to continue working hard towards high school graduation. She wants to attend a nice college where she will pursue her interest in Law while developing her knowledge in other areas such as business or psychology.

“For now, I am confident in saying that I want to be a lawyer working in the states or internationally. As my influence becomes stronger, I would love to consider being a diplomat.”

Irene’s other future plans include continuing to play piano, writing an autobiography, and opening up her own business. “I’m full of different ideas and I’m not afraid to change my path if I see my passion and persistence on other endeavors.”

Gabby shares that she is thankful for Irene always being so kind and respectful and for her great communication. She sends the following heartfelt message to Irene:

“Irene, you are a shining star, and you will do awesome wherever you go. Never forget your sweet essence and your kindness, because your human qualities and your talent will take you wherever you want to go. I’m very proud of you and will always be!”

Written by Flo Ruiz; Edited by Ann Steffen

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