Far from home

Exchange students settle in to Steamboat school

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Exchange program

The Steamboat Springs Rotary Club is accepting applications from area students interested in participating in the youth Rotary International Summer Exchange and the year-long Rotary International Student Exchange. Call one of the following local Rotarians for more information: John Pougiales at 870-1508, Winnie DelliQuadri at 871-8257 or Donna Weinman at 846-6086. The application deadline is Oct. 15.

On the 'Net

For more information on the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE), visit http://us.council...

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Areumsol Choi wrote a few of her favorite things about Steamboat in her native language, Korean. She then wrote an English translation.

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Areumsol Choi wrote a few of her favorite things about Steamboat in her native language, Korean. She then wrote an English translation.

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Foreign exchange students Areumsol Choi, 15, left, and Myung Chi Cha, 15, are still getting used to the cultural differences between their home country of South Korea and their host country.

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South Korean foreign exchange students Myung Chi Cha, left, and Areumsol Choi say they are enjoying their stay in Steamboat Springs, where they attend the Christian Heritage School.

— Areumsol Choi and Myung Chi Cha hail from South Korea, where it is common for students to where uniforms and attend school for 14 hours a day.

The South Korean public schools that Areumsol and Myung attend from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. house thousands of students in multi-level buildings. South Korean private schools, or academies, hold classes from 5 p.m. to midnight.

"Private school is big, too," Areumsol said.

Areumsol, whose nickname is Sol, and Myung are foreign exchange students at Steamboat Springs' Christian Heritage School, where the informal dress code and small classes have created an easy - and different - learning environment for the teenagers.

Sol, a soft-spoken 15-year-old, hails from Suwon, South Korea, a city of 1 million people 30 minutes from Seoul, a city of 10 million.

Sol, who is living with the Zwak family while in Steamboat, has relatives in California, so she has been to the United States before.

Myung, a more outgoing 15-year-old with stylish black-rimmed glasses, is from Ilsan, South Korea, a city of 500,000 near the North Korean border. He is living with the Couchoud family while in Steamboat. This is his first visit to the U.S.

Sol and Myung would be freshmen back home. In the U.S., they are sophomores, taking advantage of a smaller class load in a rural setting very different from that of their home country.

Sol and Myung were placed at Christian Heritage School through the Council on International Education Exchange, but that doesn't mean they are disappointed.

"Beautiful," Myung said when asked to describe Steamboat.

"Beautiful," Sol said, nodding in agreement.

Where the teenagers are from, people don't drive cars because of traffic and pedestrian congestion. They are no mountains. They hail from modernized cities with tall buildings, McDonald's and Coca-Cola. Markets abound. Shopping is easily accessible.

The technology in South Korea surpasses technology here, said Keri Couchoud, Myung's host mother and Christian Heritage School's director of development. She held her index finger and thumb about three inches apart, indicating the size of Myung's mp3 player.

South Korea's education system is far more advanced than ours, as well, Couchoud said. But Sol and Myung's experience in the United States is as much about socialization as it is education.

Myung is excited to camp - something he has never done - and learn to drive.

Sol also wants to take driver's education. In South Korea, people can't drive until they are 18.

The pair did not know one another before coming to the United States, but they are helping each other in school. Both have been learning English since they were children and have a good grasp of the language.

The students have been here since August, and they wasted no time learning some of the popular traditions.

They have made many friends and have been to "Wing Night" at the Tap House.

"I order 13, a baker's dozen," Myung said.

"I like oriental barbeque," Sol said.

Before the teenagers were dismissed for chapel Wednesday - their parents know they care enrolled in a private, Christian school - they sat down with a magic marker and wrote out some of their favorite things about Steamboat in Korean.

The Korean letters are intricate and artistic to most American eyes, but Sol and Myung write with them ease. They then translate their sentences into English.

"Steamboat is cool," Sol wrote. "Zwak family is kind. I want to ski or snowboard in winter. Friends in school are really good. South Korea and America is different. I like here. It's fun!"

Myung was done first. His strokes were more rigid, but both teenagers have exquisite penmanship.

"I love cereal most, and Couchouds are awesome! Bible is too hard to me, and no markets around house, but beautiful clouds, scenes, girls. It's cool. I think here's cool."

- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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