During a seven-day cultural exchange to Hawaii, a party of 15 Korean students, accompanied by their principal and two teachers, spent Thursday at Kaiser High School. After Hokkaido’s recent visit to Kaiser, the school once again rose to host a new set of international students. This time, Kaiser’s Korean Club hosted Hyehwa Girl’s High School, a stem-oriented school in Daegu, Korea. The event took about a year to organize, starting with an exchange of emails between DOE Coordinator Judy Nagasako and Hyehwa’s Principal, Ms. Ryu.
Nagasako, who has hosted these exchange for thirteen years, decided to match Kaiser with Hyehwa due to the school’s previous experiences with hosting and the students’ similar age range to those at Hyehwa. “Often times for many students, the most exciting people to talk with are their peers,” she said. With this observation in mind, each Hyehwa student was assigned to a club member around their age who took them around campus. The visiting pupils were integrated into school classes where they were involved in the lessons. During break times, partners were quick to warm up to each other. “I enjoyed going to classes with my partner and seeing what life is like for students in Hawaii,” said Hyehwa senior Jeon Ju Eun. Likewise, her Kaiser partner, senior Jae Seo Ha, said “Because I can speak Korean, it was very easy to communicate with my partner and show her what we have to offer at Kaiser. This is my third and final time hosting Korean students and I was pretty sad for [Eun] to leave.”
Rather than Hawaii’s unique climate and scenery, what many exchange students found interesting was Kaiser’s laid-back atmosphere. “[In Korea,] students study all day from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. at night. It surprised me how free the students are [here],” said Hyehwa junior Clara Park. When asked about her dream career, she said that “she had none.” Another Hyehwa student of the same grade level, Seon Yeon added, “I am not sure what I want to be yet. Because we spend so much time studying for exams, I never found [out] what my passions are.”
At the end of the day, the club members and their accompanying Korean partners participated in a science competition, in which many of the Hyehwa students excelled. They also stayed for a pizza party provided by Parent-Community Network Coordinator, Ann Olson. Gift bags were exchanged, consisting of three pottered mugs from ceramics teacher Doug Lung, chocolate chip cookies from culinary teacher Justine Perkin’s cooking classes, and assorted Hawaiian snacks from the Korean club. Before the Hyehwa students departed Kaiser, many partners exchange phone numbers and promised to stay in contact with each other. “These [foreign] exchanges are very powerful, and we know that it doesn’t take long for young students to connect. We’ve seen it. And the adults who witness it are shocked, amazed at what is possible, and what could never be before,” said Judy Nagasako.