From Seoul to UMass
Although most UMass Amherst undergraduate students come from Massachusetts, the university does have international renown. Just ask JJ Kim, who is originally from Seoul, South Korea, and came across the world to study here.
Educational expectations in South Korea are more rigid, said JJ, and “You have to master English and history to go to a good college.” JJ was more interested in mathematics and wanted to take more courses that specialized in STEM topics. She looked across the Pacific and decided to go to the United States for high school, figuring, “If I start my education here I might be able to focus on what I really like.” JJ enjoyed her high school experience and wanted to stay in the U.S. for college. She set her eyes on the East Coast and chose UMass Amherst, where she could double major in mathematics and physics.
JJ loves the size of the school and all the things that come with it. She explained, “I really like that we have our own college town,” referring to beautiful downtown Amherst, which is only a short walk from campus. She was also very impressed that “I can meet a lot of different people and a lot of different majors and I can hear a lot of experience from different majors.” JJ has gotten to meet and befriend people mainly through her classes and as part of her physics research team. She also noted, “I really like the fact that there’s more interactions between professors and students … it’s more like conversation-like learning.”
Coming from another hemisphere is not always a smooth transition, though. As JJ has noticed, the strangest things about a new place can be “the common things—like, we don’t say ‘bless you’ when you sneeze.” On top of adjusting to many new customs big and small, the distance between JJ and her family has been difficult. She spent all of the last summer in Amherst, but she makes sure to call them weekly to provide updates. And despite the massive transition, JJ makes it perfectly clear that “UMass is a good college … But beyond that I just like what the college offers you, the programs matter more than the name and the rank of the college.” Additionally, she insists that international students should not be afraid to come here: “You’ll get a bunch of help, more than you thought.”