Doyi is a PSE student from South Korea attending a small, private high school in Pinewood, SC. She is a Sophomore and has been an exchange student for two years. She reflects on her initial decision to apply:
“I just looked at the sky one day while walking on the street. When I saw the wide sky, I thought that the world was wide with diverse people, cultures, and many countries. I wanted to explore other cultures beyond my own.”
When Doyi first came to America as a Freshman, she noticed almost immediately that American culture was different than as depicted in the movies. She learned how to adapt to her new environment in many ways. The most difficult adaptation was greeting older adults in the same manner as friends and younger siblings.
Though Doyi was struggling to stay motivated at school back home in Korea, she is exceling at her school in South Carolina. Her favorite subjects are Biology and Geometry, and she also likes Chemistry, Physics, Biology, and Math. According to her Local Coordinator, Lacey, Doyi is maintaining straight A’s in all classes such as Advanced Art, Algebra II, British Literature, Chemistry, and Physics. Ms. Todaro, Doyi’s Chemistry teacher, shares that Doyi is “kind, attentive, and such a hard worker.” Lacey was excited about this feedback and believes that all of Doyi’s teachers would share the same sentiment.
Doyi explains that she feels encouraged during her second year of high school on the PSE program. She is not only succeeding academically but is branching out and getting involved in extra-curricular activities. Lacey is very proud of Doyi for her willingness to try new things.
“Since arriving at Pinewood her 9th grade year, Doyi has tried Basketball, Choir, Yearbook Club, Beta Club, and Robotics,” Lacey shares. As a Freshman, Doyi also joined the math team and competed in the math competition, SCISA. She was excited to participate again this year but was not able due to COVID-19.
Additionally, Doyi has already received the Faculty Honor Roll at her school. One of her goals before returning to Korea is to receive Head-Master honors which is the highest honor roll to achieve. She also hopes to continue with Beta Club until she graduates from high school. She has many goals for the next couple of years:
“I want to rest well, do leisure activities, and keep my grades at the top,” she shares.
Lacey admires Doyi for her hard work, persistency, and resiliency. She explains:
“As an exchange student, you have to learn new ways of life, new currency, and new language skills to name a few. Doyi has the personality to keep pushing through, even if she has setbacks.”
Doyi has certainly experienced her fair share of setbacks, especially with the COVID-19 global pandemic. She was unable to travel home during the summer after her Freshman year and was not guaranteed to be able to return to school. Many of the friends she had made left during the summer, which was a challenge for Doyi. In addition, she had to quarantine four times during the school year due to possible exposure to COVID-19.
“In spite of all the challenges Doyi has been presented with this school year, persistence and resilience has kept her going. Doyi pushes harder against adversity. COVID may be strong, but Doyi is stronger!” Lacey exclaims.
Although her experiences were somewhat limited this past year due to the pandemic, Doyi reports that they have continued to help her learn more about American culture and were more fun than she had anticipated.
Doyi is very thankful to PSE for taking good care of her during challenges she has faced, including the need to change host families. Despite the transitions, she feels she is now placed with the perfect fit host family and is very appreciative of them.
“I’m so thankful to be with my host family during my high school years. They take good care of me!” she exclaims.
The appreciation is mutual, as it turns out. Miriam, Doyi’s host mother, shares that though the family was a little nervous about hosting a girl after seven years of hosting boys, they have been pleasantly surprised. She describes Doyi as sweet and quiet with an independent nature. She sees her role being that of a guide and mentor to Doyi.
“I have teased her that she is quieter than a mouse. She is a typical teenager – she enjoys giggling, talking with friends, and she loves to shop!” She continues, “Doyi has a wonderful mom in Korea. As her host mother, it’s my place to support and encourage her. I am so happy that she is comfortable sharing things with me.”
Doyi and her host family have been making fond memories. Whether it is cleaning the backyard together, celebrating birthdays and holidays, playing cards together, or participating in volunteer activities, Doyi says that she always has a great time with them. Miriam says that they are a sports crazy family, so they go to as many school sporting activities as possible. They enjoy playing corn hole and kickball. They also gave Doyi a basketball as a welcome gift, and they take pleasure in playing basketball together at home. They also visited James Island Country Park together, where Doyi got to try rock climbing.
Thanksgiving 2020 created special memories for Doyi. She enjoyed wearing a festive custom-made Thanksgiving t-shirt along with her host family members, including her host Dad and host Grandma.
Another favorite memory of Doyi’s experience thus far was taking a trip with her host family to the Georgia mountains over winter break.
“We stayed in a beautiful mountain cabin and the town was decorated for Christmas like an Alpine village. Doyi rode the mountain coaster, played mountain top putt-putt golf, and learned to make S’mores on the campfire,” Miriam shares.
Throughout her student exchange experience, Doyi has discovered that spending time with American students, and students from other countries, is very similar to times spent in South Korea.
“Last year, there were many Asian students studying abroad at my school. So, I went to an Asian restaurant with them, looked at clothes and cosmetics, and it was similar to spending time with friends in Korea. Then, talking with American students, and those from other countries, and sharing cultures made me realize that it was more fun and ordinary than I thought,” Doyi reflects.
Doyi has ambitious goals for her future. She hopes to receive a scholarship and attend a prestigious university in the U.S. She would like to attend a highly ranked medical school and become a prominent surgeon.
“I want to support many children and help people who are having a hard time,” she shares.
Miriam says that overall, all of their hosting experiences have been very positive and encourages families to open their homes to international students.
“We have met new people and had new experiences. The students have been well mannered and willing to try new things. I wish more families were willing to host and show students that Americans are not quite as we are portrayed in TV and movies. All people are more alike than different!”
Lacey concludes with the following message for Doyi:
“School, work, and relationships – none of these are easy, but they are worth it. Keep your head straight and your mind and body strong and continue to work hard. I am so proud of you and all that you have overcome and accomplished. I am so thankful to be your Local Coordinator!”
“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page” – Saint Augustine.
Written by Flo Ruiz; Edited by Ann Steffen