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Korean Exchange Student Excels in the US
Shin Ju-Young Impresses North Hills Christian School
Family: While her parents look on, North Hills graduate Ju Young Shin looks over a scrapbook of her achievements at the home of Carolyn Barker, with whom she lived this past year. Ju Young will attend Wake Forest University in the fall.

If you were to have a conversation with Ju Young Shin, you would never guess that English isn't her first language.

The South Korean exchange student graduated recently from Salisbury's North Hills Christian School, where she's been a student since her sophomore year. She is animated and talkative, and sounds like any other excited high school senior (except her grammar may be better than most.)

Having English as a second language has certainly not been a barrier to success. She holds an enormous scrapbook documenting her three years at North Hills, and it's brimming with mementos, honors and awards.

Keeping a scrapbook is not unusual for a teenage girl in high school. What is more surprising is the other possession she is holding — a sword.

"I love martial arts," she says, "and I love watching Kung Fu movies with my father."

Determined that having English as a second language would not hold her back in her studies here, Ju Young's mother had told her she could have a sword if she scored above the 90th percentile in language on the PSAT, a goal she achieved.

North Hills' head of school, Carolyn Barker, has served as host for Ju Young during her senior year. Barker looks on with grandmotherly affection during the interview. The two of them have obviously developed a deep bond.

Ju Young's parents, who have come for their daughter's graduation ceremony and have spent the weekend in Salisbury, sit beaming nearby, content to let their daughter do all the talking. This is her mother's fourth visit to Salisbury. It is the first Salisbury visit for her father, Kang Sik Shin, but he is no stranger to America. He holds a law degree from Georgetown University.

Ju Young's mother, Young Ran Lee, a linguistics professor, travels often with her daughter, the couple's only child. The two of them toured Europe previously and are going to China this summer.

When Ju Young's father is asked why he doesn't get to go along on their trips, suggesting that maybe it's because he has to stay behind to make money to pay for all that travel, he just smiles. With his career in international law, most of his travel is business-related.

Arrangements for Ju Young's placement at North Hills were made through a program sponsored by a Korean newspaper. Her parents' strong Christian faith was the determining factor in her family seeking a Christian school for Ju Young's foreign exchange experience. Her parents are Presbyterians, although as a baby Ju Young was christened in a Methodist church. She has been regularly attending Trading Ford Baptist Church since coming to Rowan County.

Ju Young has stayed in several different homes during her three years at North Hills, enabling her to experience different ways of life. Her first host family had three children, so she got to see what life is like with siblings.

She spent her senior year living with Barker, whose husband died last May. Barker says the timing was just right, since having Ju Young with her helped ease her loneliness. She never had any problems with Ju Young.

"She has a great work ethic," says Barker. "She never left the house in the morning without having every assignment complete, and done well."

Ju Young made news recently when she placed second in the Earth/Space Science Senior Division of the North Carolina State Science Fair with her project — "Does Activating EM-1 with Rice Bran Water Prevent Water Pollution?" (EM stands for "effective micro-organisms.) Previously, in the regional science fair, this project had received both the Naval Science Award and the Positive Impact Award.

Because of her win at the state level, she was awarded a $10,000 per year scholarship to Ohio Wesleyan University. But she will not be using it. Instead, she will enter Wake Forest University in the fall. She chose Wake Forest because of its international reputation and because she wants to stay near friends she has made during her time here.

In South Korea, academics are heavily stressed, and the university one attends is considered a vital determining factor in a student's future success. Competition is fierce to gain admittance into the three most prestigious schools in South Korea, called the "SKY schools." SKY is an acronym comprised of the first letter of these schools' names: Seoul National University, Korea University and Yonsei University. Many regard a degree from one of the schools as a ticket to success and honor in Korean society.

Attending a top U.S. school is equally prestigious. Ju Young says every high school student in South Korea can name the top 20 American colleges. This is required knowledge.

The road leading up to college for a South Korean student is grueling in comparison to what American students experience. Ju Young says that at the all-girl school she attended in her home country, classes ran from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m., 6 days per week. And studies did not stop then. When school ended, students would take buses to an independent study location or to a tutoring center where they might stay until 2 a.m.

Asked when students sleep, Ju Young laughingly replies, "During class," but she's joking. South Korean students, fiercely competitive, under constant pressure to achieve, rarely rest.

An article by Choe Sang-Hun in the International Herald Tribune reports that students have a rule of "four versus five."

"You can enter the college you want if you sleep only four hours a day, but you won't if you sleep five or more."

According to Kim Dong Chun, a Seoul sociologist, "A worker's salary, position and prestige in his 60s often have less to do with his job performance than with whether he passed an exam to enter an elite university when he was 19."

On exam day, many mothers spend the day praying in churches, and the Korean Air Force suspends flights to avoid having their noise disturb students.

Ju Young has award certificates in basketball, softball and volleyball-activities she probably wouldn't have been able to do in Korea. She says Korean students have to choose a track of study when they are in middle school, and that will determine the rest of their education. They can choose an academic track, or artistic, or even athletic. A student who chooses athletics is expected to become a professional athlete.

Aptitude tests help students entering high school determine whether they will attend vocational school, normal high school, or a specialty school. These specialize in areas such ºas science, foreign language, arts or beauty. There is even security guard specialty school.

Ju Young participated in drama productions at North Hills, another opportunity she says that would not have had if she not been an exchange student.

Barker holds up an impressive portrait Ju Young drew. Art appears to be also among her many talents.

She plans to study communication or political science at Wake Forest, and she wants to attend graduate school in this country as well. Her long-range plan is to return to South Korea and become involved in politics with the goal of helping bring about changes in the educational system.

She feels the schools are too competitive, and the students are forced to be "processing robots."

Asked what she thinks about our nation's No Child Left Behind rules, she says a big difference is that in Korea, if a student fails, the blame is placed totally on that student. Under NCLB, the teacher is penalized when a student fails.

This week, Ju Young and her parents are traveling back to South Korea. Barker plans to pay them a visit in July. She is leaving next week to go on a mission trip to the Philippines with her son, a Southern Baptist pastor, and she will return by way of Korea.

And Barker will be sure to stay in touch with this very special student as Ju Young ventures out to make her mark on the world. (Contact Sarah Hall at 704-797-4271 or shall@salisburypost)






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