It’s already been a month since I came to the U.S., but it feels like I’ve been here for many more months. I’m trying to experience and learn as much as possible within the four months that I have.
I try to wake up at 5:30 a.m. every morning to read history books, although I admit that it’s very hard to do. After that, I have breakfast with my home-stay family. Then I do homework before school starts at 1 p.m. I’m done with classes around 5. I hang out with classmates, visit friends’ houses, attend a young adult group session located at a church downtown, or watch movies in the evening.
During the weekend, I go on picnics, sightsee around the Bay Area, or go to exhibits and fairs. I often get invited by local churches and schools to share my story and talk about North Korea.
This is how the week usually goes and I also really enjoy studying at school. Although I’m not the best student in my class, I always sit in front of the classroom to pay attention and have fun in class. My dream was to study without worrying about anything else when I was back in North Korea, so it’s very special and unbelievable to come to San Francisco because of this study abroad program.
I was initially planning on only hanging out with native English speakers before I came to the U.S., but I realize how shortsighted that was. We all can be friends even if we don’t speak the same language. These days, I spend a lot of time with friends from Japan, South Korea, Russia, and China and we share about our different cultures. It’s also a different type of learning that I enjoy.
Everything is still new, different, surprising, and amazing! I visited Redwoods National Park, Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Bridge, concerts, museums, and other historical places and it was impossible not to say “wow” every time. The United States is such a big country!
I also volunteered at a fundraising event to help homeless people and I’m planning on organizing an event on my own to raise money for them.
What I’ve learned so far is that you can’t learn everything from books, but you can learn things first-hand from everywhere and anywhere. When I was first told by LiNK that I had been accepted for the study abroad program, I felt guilty and sorry to my friends and neighbors who are still waiting to escape from North Korea, because LiNK could use the money to save more lives. However, I realized that there are many people in the world who don’t even know about the existence of or have very little knowledge about North Korea. Now I know it’s so important for me to be here to learn, grow, and share my story and insight with more people.
Once I started opening up to others, I found more and more people getting interested in North Korea. So now I feel like my contribution can be to share about the reality of North Korea and assist those who are finding ways to help the North Korean people.
I am very thankful for everything!
–Translated by Anna, resettlement coordinator