CONTRIBUTED BY ANONYMOUS
Have you ever been so committed to something that you’d dedicate your childhood to creating the foundation that may one day make it possible? That’s exactly what this inspiring young South Korean girl is doing. She’s been living with a homestay family in Canada for the past eight years – with many more to go! She’s clear about the life she wants and, with the help and blessing of her family, she’s going for it!
I’m from Seoul, South Korea, and that is where my family still lives (my mother, father and brother). I love my family very much but I’ve chosen to live my childhood with a homestay family in New Brunswick, Canada.
I’ve been here for eight years now and will continue to be here until I attend University. The reason I’m doing this is so that I can become perfectly fluent in English, graduate from a Canadian High School, attend a Canadian University, and make a permanent life for myself in Canada.
Right now, I’m just starting grade 10 so I have another three years before I will start University. I come to Canada every year to not only study English, but to work towards having a successful life, the life that I want to have.
Why Not Stay in Korea?
I love Korea, but there are too many people for the number of excellent jobs available, so you have to work very hard to have a comfortable life; you are always competing against so many others to try to rise to the top and be successful.
My brother is happy in that environment. He loves to study and work very hard every day towards eventually taking over my father’s medical clinic when it’s time for my father to retire.
But for me, I want a more balanced life where work is part of my life; not my whole life. In Canada, there are not so many people and there’s lots of space so it’s possible to have a successful, comfortable life without having to compete against so many people in order to become successful.
How I Decided to Remain Long-term in Canada
I am 15 years old now, but I was 7 years old when I first came to Canada on a temporary cultural and educational homestay programme organised by EduCulture Canada. I first went because my mother wanted me to improve my English.
Initially, I didn’t know that I would end up staying permanently in Canada. But I loved my experiences so much that we quickly realized the possibilities for my future if I were to remain in Canada and work toward one day becoming a permanent resident and then a citizen.
Arrival in Canada
The strongest memory that I have about my first visit to Canada is how clearly I remember seeing so much snow falling from the sky for the first time!
It was so amazing to see how a country that was on the other side of the world could be so different from mine. Making my first big snowman was a memorable one too because Korea doesn’t get as much snow as Canada, so I’d never had that experience before coming to Canada.
Schooling in Korea
Canadian schools and Korean schools are very different in many ways.
Koreans take their education very seriously and most students are expected to get excellent grades. To this end, students go to academies after school to help them excel in school.
When children come home from their academies it’s then time to do homework from normal school, so many students study until midnight! If a child practices an instrument, and many do, they also spend time practicing that.
A typical day for a child in Korea therefore looks like this:
- Wake at 6:00 am or 6:30 am to practice instrument
- Have breakfast
- Leave for school at 7:00 am or 7:30 am
- Return from school around 4:00 pm and have snack
- At 5:00 pm go to multiple academies (eat dinner there)
- Return hom at 9:00 or 10:00 pm
- Do homework until 11:00 pm or midnight
As you see, there is a great and stressful competition amongst students in Korea.
Schooling in Canada
On the other hand, I find Canadian students enjoy their school lives a lot more than Koreans.
I noticed that the work and study life I used to have in Korea was slackened when I came to Canada. But I personally don’t think this had any bad impact on my education because it has made me feel more relaxed, confident in my abilities, and less stressed. I learned that I was no longer in competition with anyone else; instead I learned that it’s more about being in competition with myself.
I also realized that the Canadian curriculum isn’t slack all throughout high school. It gradually gets harder as you go up in grades, which encourages students to try a little harder every year.
I personally think both countries have school systems that function very well because it’s clear that students can become successful either way!
I didn’t really find that adapting to a different culture was all that difficult, possibly because it’s quite easy to adapt to new things and environments when you’re young. Also, ever since I was little, I’ve loved learning about different cultures and languages – so maybe that made it easier for me.
At first, speaking only English was a bit challenging but I was able to adjust to that quickly enough. Also, living with a family I had never met before was quite an experience initially. There are many new things to discover and each family operates in its own way, so I had to learn how to live the way my homestay family operates.
Many people tend to get homesick when living with a homestay family, but I never did and I think that was why I was able to adjust to my new environment so quickly. I think it helped that I had already had some experiences in Canada before making the decision to stay long-term, so I was able to slowly get comfortable with my new lifestyle.
Personally, I think that my parents find it difficult to see me studying by myself on the other side of the world. In Korea, parents are always by their children’s side, especially when it comes to education.
Unfortunately, because I am now living in Canada, my parents are not able to do that. They can only hope for the best and trust that I am doing well in Canada. I think it has taken a lot of effort for them to ‘let go’ and entrust my future to myself, my school, my homestay family, and my homestay programme leader.
I feel bad that my parents have to miss my childhood but we keep in contact regularly online and I try to keep them filled in on the important things that are happening. Because of how difficult it is for parents to miss out on seeing their children grow up everyday, I understand that not all parents could do what my parents are doing for me, and I’m really thankful for my awesome parents!
I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to do and who I wanted to become. I’ve always looked up to my dad who is a great Cardiologist in South Korea. He has worked so hard for so many years and now he owns a successful medical clinic in Seoul. I admire him a lot and it is important that I use this opportunity to the fullest to also become successful and make my parents proud of me.
After almost 15 years of thinking, I have finally realized that I wanted to become an Orthodontist.
The idea came to my mind when I got braces. When my Orthodontist did an amazing job on my teeth, I began to admire him as an excellent role model. I’ve since found some universities in Canada that offer good dentistry courses, and I’ve chosen to aim for the University of Toronto. Hopefully I can get accepted there and learn to become an Orthodontist!
How I’m Changing as a Person Because of my Homestay Experiences
Because I’ve been in Canada for so long, my life has basically changed upside down. As an outgoing person, I love getting to know people and make new friends. My homestay experiences in Canada have enabled me to do this a lot.
I’ve learned the importance of protecting the special relationships I have with my friends and family. I now know that no matter where you are, friends and family will be by your side every step of the way.
But, I suppose naturally, I’ve lost quite of few of my friends in Korea since we’ve grown apart. But my new Canadian friends have became an important part of my new life and I cherish them just as much.
Interestingly, I thought that staying in Canada for 10 months of the year would put a distance between me and my family, but it has actually brought us closer.
I’ve started to have new hobbies as well, such as watching hockey games and fishing for bass and salmon. It’s amazing how an experience of living in a new country can change you in so many unusual and unexpectedly different ways.
I recommend that any students who want to study abroad should do it if they can both afford it and organise it. I believe that it’s important to take that risk and go where you want to go and do what you want to do. There may be some bumps along the road depending on the person, but if I was able to manage through that road, I truly believe that anyone can.
Students should never think of leaving their home country as a bad thing; they will have an unforgettable experience that they will cherish always!
Advice for Other Parents From my Parents
First, parents must keep in mind that sending their children to study abroad will cost greatly, depending on how long they plan to send their children to another country. So, if you have the dream to one day do this for your children, you need to start saving your money early – or have family members who can assist with the cost.
Secondly, you should make sure that your child has a diligent and independent personality. Your child must be the one who has the desire to study abroad. Your desire for them to do this is not enough; they must want it for themselves. That way, you won’t be so worried.
Third, you need to find a good coordinator you can trust who will organise getting your child into the school system and will find a good quality homestay family for them. We are using EduCulture Canada and think the personal attention and programme customisation are excellent! We know the coordinators very well now because we have been working together for so many years and we trust them completely.
Finally, parents should not forget that it will be not only be hard for their child, but it will be just as hard for them as well. It it probably even harder on parents because parents have to endure the pain of letting their child go to a different country and have the experience of being able to study there without parental assistance.
Advice to Others Considering a Homestay Experience
I think that studying abroad, and particularly living in Canada, is a great life experience! Learning about another culture in a very integrated manner broadens your mind and will help in all aspects of your life. I’m so glad that I’ve been given this opportunity and I would like to encourage others to do this if it also appeals to them and their families!
- Contributed by: Anonymous (via email interview)
- Written, formatted and edited by: Krista Beauvais
- Photos: all photos are courtesy of EduCulture Canada
- Homestay Programme: EduCulture Canada
- Email: info [at] educulturecanada [dot] com
- Phone in Canada: +1-506-773-9219
- Phone in South Korea: +82-707-678-7556
I would like to offer huge thanks to this inspiring young student for sharing their story. We can’t reveal their identity due to age and their parents’ request for anonymity, but if you want to know more then simply add your questions or comments below and I can contact them on your behalf.