COLUMBUS-- Jessica Choi has seen snow before, but not as much that has fallen on Columbus this last month.
Choi is one of four South Korean foreign exchange students attending Central Community College-Columbus through a nursing program from their home university of Ulsan College.
Kelly Choi, Su Jin Lee and Claire Cho joined Jessica one month ago to learn more about the world of nursing in an American setting.
“We had the choice of going to Canada, Philippines, Japan and here,” Jessica Choi said. “America is the more popular country. Everyone in our college tries to come here, but not many make it.”
Lee said the process for securing a seat in an American college is a daunting task.
“There is a lot of testing we have to go through just to get here,” Lee said. “One of those is the English test. It’s all very hard, and you have to have good grades, too.”
In the four weeks they have spent at CCC, many cultural differences have been made clear.
“In Korean schools we only observe patients and other nurses,” Cho said. “But here it’s a lot more involved. We, students, can give medicine, medical help, and patients believe us when we tell them what can be wrong. Korean patients never believe student nurses.”
Kelly Choi said the patient to nurse ratio is much higher in Korea than in the United States.
“Back there, a nurse has to care for about 12 patients,” she said. “Here is much safer because nurses only have to look after three or four people. That makes things a lot easier for the nurses, they can concentrate better and do a better job.”
Aside from nursing school, the students have found other distinctions between Nebraska and their home of Ulsan, South Korea.
“It is so peaceful here,” Lee said. “There are a lot of open fields and you can see for a long while. In Ulsan, it is so noisy and there are a lot of people there. It’s so different.”
Jessica Choi appreciated another difference she discovered during her time in Columbus.
“I’ve never seen so much snow at once,” she said with a smiled. “I actually lost my iPhone in the snow. The first time I saw a big pile of it, I just jumped into it. We all did. We played a little, then I realized I couldn’t find my phone.”
Midwest hospitality was used to recover the lost device, Choi said.
“They helped me try to scoop out the snow,” she said, pointing to her three companions. “We used our hands as shovels, and some people came and helped us, too. Even the guys who scrape the sidewalks. We were able to find it again 24 hours later.”
The four students are due back in South Korea at the end of this week. Upon arriving home, the four 21-years-old students will have one year left until graduation. This time will be spent wisely, as the four have already decided what fields of nursing they wish to delve into.
Kelly Choi and Lee wish to work as pediatric nurses. Jessica Choi hopes to find employment as an intensive care unit nurse and Cho wants to be an emergency room nurse.
“In Korea we were able to observe different parts of nursing,” Cho said. “I was very surprised that the ER is very fast and systematic. I want to be like them.”
Their hometown has made a name for itself in a number of different areas. Ulsan is “famous for Hyundai and the No. 1 ship builder in the world,” Cho said. The industrial city with a population of one million people is a six hour drive from the capitol, Seoul.
While the students have enjoyed their time in America, all but one wishes to return for employment.
“All of my friends and family are in Korea,” Cho said. “I want to be closer to them, so I will be a nurse there.”
As far as Columbus goes, the girls have found it to be a breath of fresh air.
“I love to drive around here,” Lee said. “There is so much sky to see and air to breathe. It’s all so clear. I’ve never been able to see so many stars in the sky until I got here. But my favorite part of Columbus are the sunsets and sunrises. They are so beautiful.”