Exploring Korean Early Study Abroad Students' Perceptions on Their Experiences  During Their Adaptation Period in the United States


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Virginia Tech


Korea's intense quest for globalization, combined with rapid growth in economic development, has caused the number of young students (secondary school age and younger) leaving Korea for overseas study to rise steadily in recent years. This phenomenon of young Korean students studying overseas is termed jogi yuhak, which can be directly translated as Early Study Abroad (ESA). The phenomenon of ESA has stirred both interests and concerns to Korean society for more than a decade. At the same time, American schools are beginning to see more of these ESA students in their classrooms, as a result of the United States being the preferred destination country for more than one-third of the ESA students in Korea. Although the growing presence of ESA students in school classrooms has begun to attract increasing attention from educators and researchers in the United States, there are no clear statistics investigating the numbers of ESA students in the United States, and that most school officials are even unaware of the trend. The qualitative phenomenological study was used to explore the lived experiences of Korean ESA students in the United States in relation to their adaption to their new environment, as well as the factors that they perceive to help or challenge them in attaining successful adaption. Ten Korean Early Study Abroad (KESA) students attending schools in the Washington Metropolitan region were recruited for this study, and face-to-face, semi-structured interviews were conducted to gather information regarding experiences and perceptions of KESA students in the United States.

Findings show that most KESA students feel that having friends, participating in extracurricular activities and maintaining contacts with their families and friends in Korea using social media and instant messaging helped them as they made the transition into American culture. Students also indicated that the language barrier, being away from family, not owning a car, difficulty keeping in touch with old friends, cultural differences and racism are the most serious challenges for them during their adaptation period. This research documents the unique challenges faced by KESA students and provide a helpful guideline for counselors and educators working with ESA students from Korea, as well as indicate the directions that should be pursued by further research.



Korean Early Study Abroad Students