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Now, the same, the difference from SUNY at Stony Brook

Over 741,000, 104,000, 14%… ’ What are these numbers for?

These numbers represent how many students stay in America.  According to a report of The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System(SEVIS) on January 2010, there are about 741,000 students in U.S.A who come from other countries. Korea has the second largest number of students--104,000, right after China, which has around 118,000.  It means one among seven foreign students is Korean.  The percentage of Korean students in the U.S has been getting higher. (This year, it’s about 14%.)

What makes so many students come to this country? Why do they want to study here. Of course, American education system can give international students many benefits.  But as every coin has a head and a tail, when students plan to come to America, they should think carefully.  Now, I would like to talk about ordinary school life here.  The purpose of this column is to help students who want to study in the U.S.A., especially at State University of New York(SUNY) at Stony Brook, understand American college life.

Exactly two month ago, I was sitting in a classroom at SUNY with palpitation about class, classmates and curriculum.  It was at the beginning of this semester and in the middle of dry winter.  Now, the green warm spring is coming and the second midterm exams have finished.  In addition to exams, I have done a lot of homework, including writing essays and taking ten quizzes for my six classes within two months.  Compared with some classes that I had taken at Dongguk University, most of the classes at SUNY usually have more than three exams and require students to study harder.  So if students want to get good grades, they should be busy with their work.  In exchange students’ case, it can be difficult when they are under pressure of learning English, as most of them are not good at it.  Much to students’ relief, even if those exams are difficult, if you have studied hard and achieved good grades in Korea, I believe that you can make it here too. 

Another feature about general classes at SUNY is how much students are involved in classes.  Students here don’t hesitate to ask questions and express their opinions.  Sometimes, what they said might sound too personal and have nothing to do with classes, but it might make classes more active and help students extend the range of their thinking by sharing ideas.  Professors also interact with students well so they have closer relationship.
 Many students in Korea tend to have fixed images to students life in the U.S. Some stereotypes Koreans have on Americans are about having parties every weekend and bringing their girlfriend or boyfriend in their room to have sexual relationship.  I also had this thinking before coming to this country.  It would be affected out of some American teen movies such as High School Musical and Mean Girls.  Now, I am staying in a dormitory building called Irving College at SUNY which has multiple races.  I have been able to experience several different parties and hang out with other students in the same dormitory.  My experience tells me that, even though Americans tend to have parties more frequently than Koreans, those movies exaggerated American lives here.

Aside from those factors that I mentioned above, since most exchange students at SUNY have to live in dormitory or to find a place to stay near school unlike in Korea, as time goes by, the issue of dwelling and food cost becomes afloat as the biggest concern.  If students live on campus, they have to pay from $2,800 to $3,800(3,160,000 won to 9,035,000 won, Exchange Rate: $1=1,129 won) for one semester, which is almost four months. In other words, the fees per month are around from $700 to $950 (790,000 won to 1,070,000 won).  Actually, it’s more expensive than staying off campus near school, $500 to $850(560,000 won to 959,650 won), in which case if you don’t have a car, it’s hard to commute.  Wherever students live, students have to pay a lot of money.

As various students from other cultures go to SUNY, campus dining services provide students with different kinds of food. In some dormitories, students can cook, which is good for Korean students to experience new food styles and to cook themselves in their dormitory. We can buy even Kimchi on campus and try some Asian food like Korean, Japanese and Chinese.  But in terms of expenses, I don’t think we can save money from food.  Whenever I eat on campus, I usually pay around $7 to $9 (7,900 won to 10,000 won) per meal.  Most students go to campus dining service twice a day.  So if we think of average expenses per month, even if people have different eating habits, I’m sure that the cost of food should make up one of the biggest part in our account book.

Since Universities of California decided to raise the tuition fee up to 32% last year, college students in the entire nation have begun to protest against the tuition fee increase.  SUNY also has plans to increase its tuition.  Even though the cost of SUNY is cheaper than other universities in U.S.A, the fee is relatively expensive to exchange students.($6,435, 7,265,000 won). 

Now if my friends ask me some advice about studying abroad, I want to ask these questions. First, “Are you ready to overcome pressure and burden coming from learning English and some setbacks here? Are you or are your parents ready to pay these expensive fees?”  Everything has both sides. Although students get a lot of benefits from America, if we think of opportunity cost we have to give up while staying in America and expenses for tuition fee, dormitory fee and food, students should be careful.  So before you make up your mind whether or not to come to SUNY to study as part of your career,  think carefully and take everything you might neglect before into account.

Nam Tae-wook  1stnamti@naver.com

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