Rotary exchange student closes out visit to Keizer

Jiyoung Cha

Back in August 2018, Jiyoung Cha came to live in Oregon for ten months as a part of the Rotary Club of Keizer exchange program. 

Cha has lived with three different host families over the past ten months and has had many opportunities to fine-tune her English, make new friends, and discover what it is like to study at McNary High School. This week, we were able to get a chance to ask Cha about her experience living here in Oregon.

Cha is from a small town in Seoul, South Korea where she lives with her grandparents. When she left her home and arrived in the US to meet her first host family, she was introduced to her two new host siblings, ages four and two. Living with her younger host siblings allowed her to develop her English. “When I first came here, I was very afraid to speak English because it was so bad at first, but the kids use simple English and they were very nice to me. So that made me more brave to talk to other people.” 

Reading kids books, Cha said, made it easier to learn English. “They liked when I would read the books. I was reading books for them, and they were very basic.”

Cha oftentimes wears a blazer with buttons, and she said explaining the stories behind her buttons to the kids was fun.

Cha was able to enjoy her time with her other host families as well, and was able to play board games with her second family, and learn about CrossFit from her third family. “I liked doing CrossFit with my third host family father, and he made me exercise more for muscle. I enjoyed doing that.” 

Students from other countries also visited the Pacific northwest. Cha said, “Making friends with kids from different countries is more of a challenge because it is new to me, and some people speak English well and some people I can’t understand their pronunciation or accent.” 

Though there were language barriers, Cha enjoyed making friends with her fellow exchange students and began to learn some of their languages as well. “We tried to say hello using other languages. I know some other languages here and there. I made friends from Japan, Taiwan, Mexico and Chile, and friends from France and Germany.”

Cha spent a good amount of her time studying at McNary High School and enjoyed her experience. “In Korea, we can’t choose our subjects, because they have their stuff to learn. So, we can’t organize that. The school organizes the schedule and we just follow that. But, McNary High School in the US, I can choose my schedule and I can change that. That was so nice.” Being able to choose her classes let Cha study piano, guitar, and zoology. 

“Here I am able to enjoy studying,” Cha said, “The teachers are nice, and when I ask them a question about a problem, they like that. That was surprising because Korean teachers don’t like that.” She further commented on the McNary teachers and said, “Sometimes it’s messy and I mess up, but they explain to me very well and make me understand.”

Cha then described her experience at school with the Rotary. “I went to the Rotary meeting in Korea and they are very serious. They wear suits every time, so like, strict and serious. But here, it is very funny. More family things. I can feel like they are my family. They are so nice and cute.”

On Thursday, July 1, Cha will fly back to South Korea. She plans on taking her high school graduation test in April, and wants to study mathematics in college, or work for the Humane Society.

When asked if she had anything else she would like to share about her experience or about herself, Cha responded, “Go visit other countries and meet many people. It is really cool, and it has made me more active and has changed my feelings. The people who I met here, a lot of them, are so nice. You can try other countries that are more fun and nice, and it can make you more happy.”