SMC draws women from abroad
Harter, Liz | Friday, November 4, 2005
A majority of Saint Mary’s students hail from the American Midwest, while some come from the coastal states. But every year, a handful of international and foreign exchange students also call the College home.
This year, Saint Mary’s plays host two foreign exchange students in addition to its nine four-year international students from nine different countries including Latvia, India, Guatemala and Uganda.
Minjoung Kim (Sophie), from South Korea, and Daisy Bannerman, from Australia, are the two foreign exchange students on campus this year. Both are here because their home institutions are sister schools with Saint Mary’s. Saint Mary’s reciprocates their universities’ exchange programs, sending students on the Korean Culture Studies Program in the summer and the Australian study abroad trip, said Tracy Robison, director of International Living.
The foreign exchange students normally spend a full year at Saint Mary’s, she said, and she checks in with them over the course of that year to make sure their visas are kept up to date and to plans activities during each semester to bring all of the international students together.
Kim, who studies at the Catholic University of Korea, a co-ed college in Seoul, South Korea, said she initially found Saint Mary’s boring because she was not used to being in an all-woman environment. She said she now finds it very calm and peaceful.
Although she’s 23 years old, Kim is studying first year subjects because she is not fluent in English. She can read and understand spoken English, she said, but still struggles to speak.
“I can’t speak my opinions,” Kim said. “I can’t participate in class activities.”
Bannerman is from Perth, Australia, a placed she described as “the most isolated city in the world.” She studies at the University of Notre Dame in Fremantle, Australia, one of the locations where Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame students can choose to study abroad.
She knew what to expect coming into an all-women environment, Bannerman said, because she attended an all-girls’ high school.
A junior, Bannerman is only here for one semester because the school year in Australia is different from the United States.
“The people I’ve met at Saint Mary’s have definitely made this experience for me,” Bannerman said. “Everyone has been so hospitable and welcoming, I don’t know how I will ever leave.”
Neither girl will go home at any point during their stay because of the long flights, but both call home regularly. Bannerman talks on the phone with her family and friends and hopes to be able to meet a few friends in Canada before flying back to Australia.
Kim uses a Webcam to speak to her parents every Thursday so that they can see each other as well as talk and ease the homesickness.
Both were recently introduced to the American traditions of Halloween.
Bannerman said Halloween isn’t celebrated as theatrically in Australia.
“To see all the mock graves erected in the front yards around town and pumpkins for sale on every corner was definitely different,” Bannerman said.