From Albania to Zimbabwe: Finding Your Niche


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!

I hope everyone had a fun, safe Halloween last weekend. I may have done the lamest thing to do on Halloween night – in the CIT (Brown’s computer science department building) coding, but sometimes you just have to. Still, I was able to see some really fun costumes and stop by at some events (and get free food), which made my Halloween date with my CS project a little less depressing.

I wanted to talk about finding an international niche at Brown by talking about Hansori. Hansori is a subgroup of KISA, Korean International Student Association, that performs Samulnori, or a Korean traditional percussion music. There are a total of four instruments; two drums, “book” and “jang-gu,” and two gongs, “kkwaeng-gari” and “jing.” I play the “kkwaeng-gari,” which is a small steel gong that makes high-pitched, sharp sounds. The player of the instrument leads the rest of the group by controlling how fast and how loud the performance should be. It can get challenging when you play fast pieces since you never really get a break, but it is honestly a lot of fun, with flexible and not too demanding time commitment. For the two hours I am practicing with the group I can leave behind all my stress and anxieties and enjoy the moment. In that sense I find it almost therapeutic.

However, that’s not the only reason I find Hansori so special. It reminds me that I belong. It is exciting to meet people from diverse backgrounds but also comforting to know that there will be a group of people that will understand your specific fears and challenges. There is a culture of upperclassmen, the “sunbaes,” looking out for underclassmen “hoobaes,” in Korea, where they help you navigate through school based on their own experiences. I’m grateful for so many “sunbaes” I met through Hansori that I would not have otherwise. They were the one who encouraged me to take computer science and reassured me it wasn’t too late to try it out, and gave me wholehearted advice on finding housing, internships, jobs and many more. It reminds me of home even when we can’t go back during holidays, which I think every international student should be able to feel.

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


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