From Korea to San Diego – A Student’s Journey – Dohwan Lee

Dohwan LeeThe ALI supports the concept of study combined with outside activity in order to practice classroom lessons in the real world. Our students take what they learn and apply it to everyday situations like playing sports or exchanging opinions in informal gatherings.

“When I play basketball and tennis the atmosphere here is really different from Korea. Like when we play in Korea we play with strangers, so we just play. That’s it. But in America we say ‘Hello’ to each other and ‘Hey what’s your name’ and we talk. It’s very good since I’m an international student and it allows me to talk in English. It’s helpful when trying to make American friends,” says ALI student Dohwan Lee.

“Because of American personalities they really want to help me. They want to speak. Americans don’t really like silence, but in Korea we are accustomed to silence. If I say hello to strangers they would think I’m strange. But in America, saying ‘Hello,’ ‘Good morning’ and whatever to strangers is fine. I have become accustomed to the American lifestyle thanks to my time at the ARC.”

Lee was so happy by the advantages of using his Aztec Recreation Center (ARC) membership (one of the benefits of being a student at the ALI is that you receive a free membership to the ARC) that he was inspired to write an English essay about his experiences. His essay, “Get Rid of Stress” points out the obvious – regular visits to the gym protects and reduces your chances of many ailments – but he also includes his many chances to meet American friends by playing basketball and tennis, and even engaging in small talk while sitting in the hot tub.

The benefit of outside-the-classroom activities is not lost on Lee who mentions why he now believes that students should exercise as well as focus on studies. “When I was in high school and middle school in Korea my class started at 7 am and ended about 9 pm. Students spend time doing assignments and homework. Americans, I feel make time to enjoy their leisure time and play sports like surfing and snowboarding and this helps with studies. It’s really different. I want to come back to America when I have children. I want them to see and experience Americans enjoying life with exercise and studying.”

Lee learned a very important lesson: He not only improved his health by outside activity but also improved his English by interactions at the gym with Americans, where there is a monthly average of 15,000 ARC active members, providing plenty of opportunity for foreign students to meet and speak with American students in a fun and healthy environment.