by Luke Putvin
For one week, 11 students, Lynnwood High School Principal Mike Piper, a parent and two representatives from the Sister City Program travelled to Damyang, South Korea.
Last year, a number of LHS students hosted Korean exchange students. Those students that hosted an exchange student last year got the first chance to sign up for the trip, but there were some who didn’t host a student that also went.
One student who went, Maika Truong, actually graduated in June of 2019, so she no longer attends LHS. However, she became really good friends with the exchange student she hosted last year. The two continued to talk, and when Truong heard that LHS students were going to Damyang, she really wanted to go. Luckily, the school still allowed her to go on the trip.
“It was super rewarding to see my friend again,” Truong said.
Another student, Cami Quinton, didn’t know that she was going to host an exchange student in 2018 until about a week or so beforehand.
“The school announced they needed more people to host students,” Quinton said. “The student I hosted asked if I was going to go to Korea next year; I didn’t even know that was going to happen.” Her parents and her decided they were going to do everything they could so she could go.
While in South Korea, the LHS students attended high school. There is a different school culture there, the students said; school lasts from 8 A.M. until 10 P.M.
“We didn’t have to stay the whole day,” Quinton said. She mentioned that the students hosting them were happy because they got to leave school early with them.
“The trip made me realize how much respect other countries have for their schools,” Danielle Cooper, another student who went on the trip said. “They treat their elders with more respect on hospitality.”
Principal Piper appreciated seeing the human connection between the students. “I think the highlight overall was seeing the strength of the relationships of the students of Damyang and the students of Lynnwood High and when we left,” he said. “On both sides there were lots of hugs and tears. They really care for each other… There is a deep connection now between the two schools.”
Piper and the principal of the school in Damyang discussed the future of this program extensively including funding challenges. They also both wanted to include younger students in the experience, not just primarily upperclassmen.
“I can’t speak for all Americans when I say this,” began Jay Wolde, another LHS student, “but sometimes Americans can just focus on America only, not thinking what happens outside. This just gives a whole different experience; I had an idea what Korean school life was like, but I didn’t have an idea about everything.”
“I think our school would benefit from doing this again,” Quinton said. “It’s made me more aware of cultural differences, but also our similarities.”
Piper expressed the general importance of the program as a way to learn love and appreciation for diversity, which he sees as an added value to education.
“Watching you all together was like watching a bunch of high school friends,” Piper told the students. “On the surface, there are so many differences that are fun to share, but the big things, like the importance of family and relationships, are all so similar.”