Friday, April 27, 2012

Paperwork and nostalgia for the international student (bank statement please)

The campus is empty. Finals began Wednesday and I presume the lucky ones without finals have already left campus. It's strange to think that by the time they come back, I won’t be here.

I had the opportunity to speak Korean on two different occasions today. One was to confirm my brother’s trip itinerary and the other to chat with my international advisor. Every time I speak in Korean, I 1) remember how much I enjoy speaking Korean and 2) am surprised at how unnatural it feels.

I am really looking forward to going home.

(Isn’t this the perfect word? I love its long “o” sound ending with a closed m.)
Something that surprised me when I was in Korea was the kindness of strangers. On buses or subways, younger students always gave up their seats for the elderly. There is a deep sense of respect among strangers and people treat you like family, perhaps not unlike that waitress at your favorite diner you frequent. It may be because Korea is so small that everyone really is family, but I miss this sense of belonging. I can actually vote in this country. My identification cards don’t have “TEMPORARY” stamped on them. I can retire here and claim this place as home.

I may be feeling more nostalgic because of the extra paperwork I need to fill out as an international student: I-20 transfer, VISA application, financial documents, affidavits, bank statements, copies of passport, grade reports, 7th grade diaries... The extra steps make me feel more like an outsider: this alien needs more credentials verified! (thus the Men in Black picture)

In addition, as an international student I need to show that I have the entire cost for the first year of dental school in cash. My word isn’t good enough- I need to send in bank statements. Even presidential candidates don’t release bank statements, so I don’t know if I am going to dental school or a Senate hearing.

But in the bigger picture: How to balance my time between America and Korea once I begin my career? A huge life assignment to think about.