Hello, I'm SooHyung Kim, but I go by Sally. I am 16 years old, and I live in South Korea. I am currently a content creator for Fiveable.

Field Notes is a collection of articles curated by students and teachers from around the world detailing their academic experiences.

It can be difficult to transition to a new school when you have to leave everything that you know behind.

But you know what’s even more terrifying?

Being stranded alone in a massive crowd of strangers… in a new country… thousands of miles away… in an entirely new culture.

Struggles and Adjustments

I spent almost nine years, from the second half of first grade all the way to freshman year in high school. Then the summer before my sophomore year, I moved to South Korea. There have been so many differences between the two high schools, and I had to change and adapt a lot to be able to fit in. As a sophomore, I had to navigate through the school year with people who already knew each other and had already formed their own friend groups.

Of course, I’ve had trouble making friends in this new environment, but this problem worsened due to a deeper aspect, a language barrier.

I’m currently attending an international school, meaning that all students and teachers have to speak in English. That’s usually not the case for the students. Most students are Korean, and they tend to mix words from both Korean and English. How much English and Korean a student spoke really depended on their fluency in those languages. I’ve seen both instances when a classmate would speak all in either Korean or English, but most students stick to a combination of both languages.

I know how to speak Korean, but I’m not as confident in using it in my daily life, especially in school. This really restricted my relationships with other students during the first semester. Later on, during the second semester, my Korean vocabulary did increase a bit. Still, I tend to talk mostly in English since even now I’m most comfortable in speaking in English.

The difference in the layout of the schools also threw me off. I’ve lived in California, and California tends to have a lot of earthquakes. So, many of the buildings, including the ones in schools, are only a few stories high. But, in my current school, each building has six to eight floors. The amount of stairs I go up and down everyday is definitely more than how much I had back in California. On the days that I’m really unlucky, I would have to go up like ten floors within seven minutes. The ten floors don’t actually take all seven minutes, but as a person who likes to be in class as early as I can be, I try my best to hurry through these stairs. The stairs themselves have been enough to count as workouts for me, and it’s a surprise how I’m still not athletic from climbing all these stairs.

Even though I was stressed about making friends, I eventually found my people.  Despite being a somewhat extroverted person, I’m not really the person to start the conversation, and I wait for people to talk to me first. The thing is I’m usually shy around strangers, but I can get really loud once I am more comfortable and feel that I can trust these people.

So, the first semester was really getting to know some people better and becoming close to them. It was the second semester when I felt more relaxed and could interact with both the other students and teachers without being too scared. I was more confident in myself, and it really showed through the second semester. I spoke up more often during class, and I eventually found myself familiar with many of my fellow classmates.

Fitting into a new school has been a struggle, but it had also been helpful. Adapting to a new environment is only one of the many skills that I was able to learn through this school year. I did, and still do, have troubles both socially and academically, but in the end, these obstacles have proved to help me push myself further.