For a big-city girl, coming to live with a family near Smiths Grove can be a big change.

When that girl is from Seoul, South Korea, the change can be even more of a shock.

Hee Jun Jin, a 10th-grader at Barren County High School and exchange student, said she wanted to come to America to better learn English.

“At first, I wanted to go to China, so I studied Chinese, but it was really, really hard,” Jin said. “I started studying English and it was easier. I applied to come to America after I started taking English.”

Jin said English is very important in South Korea.

“Every student in Korea studies English,” she said. “It’s really important to know English for you to go to university. This is a good way to learn it. A good experience.”

Jin said it will be hard spending her first holiday season away from her family, but she is excited.

“I’m going to hang out with my friends,” she said. “I’m excited because in Korea, at Christmas, I just stay with my family. It’s good but it can get kind of boring. I couldn’t hang out with my friends because they were celebrating with their families too. Maybe this time, I can visit.”

Kassie Kruger, half of Jin’s host family, said it was an easy decision to take Jin in.

“We’ve got a multi-cultural family, so it was easy for us to bring her in,” Kruger said. “She’s not the first exchange student we’ve had. It’s always nice having someone else’s culture here to learn about and have them here for the holidays.”

Jin said Christmas in Korea isn’t much different than in Kentucky.

“I’m not Christian and my parents are Buddhist,” she explained. “Only my sister is Christian, so usually my family doesn’t celebrate Christmas. But we do set up a Christmas tree and give gifts to each other. I think other Christian families, for them it’s almost the same in Korea as here. They make a party, go to church and celebrate together. You would expect something different, but it’s the same, I think.”

Jin said she would be happy to spend Christmas with her newfound friends and host family.

“I heard about American teenagers being mean,” she said. “My friend went to America a year ago and she said the first day, she asked people at lunch if she could join them and they all said ‘no.’ I really worried about that. But here, they are so kind and friendly. I don’t worry about it anymore.”


Recommended for you