US Education Seeks Well Rounded Students
By Kang Shin-who
A group of American educators said the success of overseas studies relies on whether the students can meet experienced supporters and mentors who can care for them. Youth For Understanding (YFU) Korea last week invited their five counterparts from the United States to give them the opportunity to learn more about Korea.
In an interview with The Korea Times, last Thursday, the YFU-USA delegation said they could take better care of Korean students in exchange programs by understanding the educational differences between the two countries.
``I think the most important thing is to find host families (of home-stay programs) that (have experienced) hosting teenagers for some years. We have many repeat families that do this year after year after year,'' said Paulette Byrd, a student support liaison officer of the U.S. group.
Established in 1951, YFU is an international organization that offers exchange programs for young students around the world to study on summer courses, semesters or a year with a host family.
Currently some 60 countries are participating in the YFU and the U.S. alone has about 2,000 students in exchange programs and 75 Korean students are studying there. However only one American student is studying in Korea, as not many U.S. students are interested in the exchange program, they said.
Another volunteer of the program said that Koreans need to understand the educational differences between the U.S. and Korea. ``Unlike Asian countries, it is not just test scores that are the only and most important thing to get into good colleges in the United States. If they aim to enter good colleges, they must have good grades, good test scores, be a leader of one or two organizations, be good at sports and do outstanding volunteer work at least,'' said Vickie Gaynor, a volunteer of the program from Michigan.
``A lot of good students work early in the morning to past midnight for top universities, but it's not just for the schools. They are required to do activities in their communities,'' she added.
Gaynor also pointed out that while Korean students study with same classmates all of the day, American students change classes every hour and participate in many clubs so that they can meet different friends. ``It takes a while for Korean students to understand the difference,'' she said.
Pamela Blizzard, another director of the program from Alaska, said that Korean students should be prepared in English skills for successful study in the country.
``I have seen many students change to become more outgoing and even more talkative through the programs,'' said Shirley Adams, field director and volunteer support officer in Texas and New Mexico. She hosted a Korean student in 2000.
John Jordan, support services manager, also said that students can get many benefits from the program, which can help them apply to a prestigious school.
Lastly, they said it would be better for parents to send their children overseas at the age of 15-18 although it depends on each child. ``Our policies allow students older than 15 to apply for the programs. We understand the advantage of early overseas studies but our concern is whether they can manage and handle many issues such as being away from home and in a different culture,'' Byrd said.
Also, they advised Korean parents that it would be better to send their children to programs sponsored by schools or big organizations, if they are considering overseas studies for their children.