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There’s no jelly fish in Lake Orion, exchange student learns

November 02, 2011

By Olivia Shumaker

Special Writer for The Review

Learning a foreign language is not easy.

Just ask Eun-Young Choi, a.k.a. Violet, a junior exchange student at Lake Orion High School. She is from Kyeongido, South Korea.

Choi arrived in the United States in August and recently moved in with the Kreutzer family in Lake Orion, along with fellow exchange student Anna Vetrovcova from the Czech Republic.

Choi began learning English in third grade but, unlike American foreign-language classes, students mostly learned English grammar, rather than conversational English. So, while Choi is quite able to read a book in English, speaking the language is still a bit of a challenge - one that the Kreutzers are helping her conquer.

"We tell Violet that she speaks well, but she's quiet and shy, and you can't be that in our house," said host mother Gigi Kreutzer.

School, too, was a significant adjustment for Choi. In South Korea, students can be in school for up to 12 hours a day. Students are provided lunch and dinner in school, and also attend classes every other Saturday morning.

A lot of school time during the week is devoted to self-study rather than instruction. During the periods of instruction, students are assigned all of their classes, instead of being able to choose them like the typical high school here.

Choi explained back home students study a minimum of Korean, English, mathematics and science including biology and chemistry, among other subjects.

Obviously, there is limited time for the many outside activities that Lake Orion students are so accustomed to doing.

Students also have to wear uniforms. According to Choi, there is a law in South Korea that does not allow girls to wear makeup in school. At one point in time, South Korean students also were required to keep their hair at a certain length, depending on their gender. Her country has recently begun to loosen these rules.

While Choi has enjoyed immersing herself in American culture, she still maintains a sense of national pride. "I'm really proud of Korea," she said. "Entertainment, K-pop dancers, technology—even though we separate North Korea and South Korea, we're good."

In the big-city environment of Kyeongido, Choi enjoys being able to travel a great deal by foot or subway - markets, malls and other favorite places. "It's like New York City, " she explained.

While Choi is making the leap from big city to small town, the Kreutzers are making sure to introduce her to some American traditions, including Halloween.

On Friday, Oct. 28, "the exchange students were all at a Halloween party," said Kreutzer. They participated in a variety of activities, including navigating a corn maze.

"Violet went in high heels, and I was like, 'You might want to wear tennis shoes,' but I don't think she understood where she was going to go, so her heels were covered in mud," Kreutzer said. "It was nice because none of the kids had ever really experienced Halloween."

Choi and the Kreutzers are teaching each other quite a bit, from holidays to typical foods.

"I asked her, 'Is there anything you don't want to eat,' and she said, 'Jellyfish.' I said, 'That's not a problem, you will never see jellyfish on my table,'" Kreutzer laughed.

While the Kreutzers and Choi continue to learn from each other, Choi intends to make the most of her time in the United States, even though it can provide challenges.

"I want to learn the culture, because I know that it's very different," Choi said. "Czech [Republic] and Korea are very similar. If they gave the choice—Czech or U.S.—Czech is very similar, so I would want to go to the U.S.," she said, exclaiming "I love it here."

If someone is interested in hosting an exchange student, contact Gigi Kreutzer, the representative for Lake Orion's exchange students, at