From Albania to Zimbabwe: Course Reflections, Family Weekend, and More…

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Hi!  I’m SeungLee Lee, a sophomore hailing from Seoul, South Korea, and I am thrilled to be writing for From Albania to Zimbabwe. I will try to share all aspects of the international experience at Brown and hopefully provide a well-rounded, honest picture of what an American college experience is really like. Stay tuned!

It is unbelievable that yesterday was already mid-semester. It only seems days since I hauled my gigantic suitcases up the stairs and suffered from a week-long jetlag – international student problems at their finest. The horribly humid and hot summer, after a few days of gorgeous autumn weather, is sharply transitioning into winter. Even after enduring nearly six years of brutal Chicago weather, it is never fun to fight against the wind and the rain as you walk across the campus. But the occasional perfect days, as they were during the long weekend with leaves turning color and the gentle breeze hitting your face as you sit on the Main Green with friends, are worth enduring the unforgiving New England weather.

Speaking of unforgiving times, we are amidst an equally terrifying time of the year – midterm season. My first round of midterms has just ended but I only have two to three weeks to enjoy before they strike again. Then Thanksgiving comes around, then reading period, then finals, and that’s the end of the semester. It sounds pretty bleak when I put it this way, but don’t worry, there’s a lot more to college than just exams and studying, which I will definitely talk more about in the following posts!

I want to diverge a little bit and talk a bit more about my classes, which I find surprisingly enjoyable. I say surprisingly because I did not do much shopping this semester- my schedule mainly consists of courses I need to take to fulfill my concentration requirements. It’s a good thing that the requirements don’t feel like “chores” that I need to take care of to take other “fun” classes – it’s a sign that I’m on the right track.

This semester I am taking Intermediate Microeconomics, Statistical Inference (which is a probability and statistics course in the applied math department), An Integrated Introduction to Computer Science and Basic Chinese. I also sit in on a history course on the American Civil War because I’m weird. Just kidding, I’m actually a huge history nerd and the class is taught by the same professor I had for my first year seminar. The class is great. With the pressures of taking notes and writing papers removed, going to history lecture is actually one of my favorite times of the day. I enjoy all my “real” classes as well – it is interesting to see how microeconomics builds itself from what I learned in Principles of Economics last year, computer science is demanding but incredibly fun (it’s like logic and puzzle solving on steroids), Chinese is fascinating and probability is, well, tolerable. It is simply amazing how much the Chinese instructors devote their time to our learning experience. Aside from daily lectures, which are highly interactive themselves, they hold one-on-two sessions in which two students meet with a teacher every week to practice tones and have simple conversations. My goal is to become trilingual by the time I graduate – in Korean, English, and hopefully Mandarin.

Back to what I was talking earlier. So like I mentioned before, it is officially fall in Providence, which means that Family Weekend is here. The campus at the moment is full of parents and other family members visiting. It is an exciting time of the year with numerous events, busy crowds and the Brown marching band casually marching its way through campus. But it is easy for international students to feel left out and alone. I myself thought I would never get lonely – besides, you can literally meet new people every single day. I even told my parents I would fly alone to school for freshman orientation and move-in to save up on money. It still leaves a pang, however, when you see students showing their parents around the school – where they have class, eat, hang out, etc. But they do go away pretty quickly when you realize that hundreds of international students and even some American students are on the same boat. A call, a Skype session, and sharing some pictures you took are enough to send love to each other, even if you are thousands of miles away. That really is one of the toughest and greatest lessons I have learned studying in the U.S. – how to stay positive, and how to make best out of second options.

See you next week,

Seunglee

Do you have any questions, comments or concerns? Send me an email at seung_lee_lee@brown.edu and I will get back to you!

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