A dozen South Korean students may be the ones on an educational and cultural exchange to Andover this winter. But they are providing as much insight as they are gaining during their six-week experience.
The students, who are in town through Cambridge-based exchange program Educational Divide Reform, have been absorbing every facet of American life since arriving Jan. 13 and joining the student body at West Middle School.
It’s the first time West Middle School has hosted a full-fledged exchange, Principal Stephen Murray said.
“We’ve had kids come visit for a day, or take a trip, but we’ve never had kids come for an extended period of time,” Murray said. “The teachers are so ecstatic.”
The visit was set up by West Middle School graduates and brothers Peter and Tim An, who are regional coordinators for Educational Divide Reform. Peter An graduated from West in 1998, followed by his younger brother in 2000.
Growing up as an Asian-American in Andover wasn’t always easy, Peter An said.
“There wasn’t much diversity. Diversity wasn’t promoted at my age,” Peter An said. “It was hard for me to fit in, so I wanted to expose the Asian culture (to Andover).
“... This is the place that molded me to be the person I am, and I trust all the teachers to do the same for these students.”
The visiting students, most of whom are from Seoul, have been experiencing a crash course in 21st century America as they stay with host families in neighboring Reading and shadow their peers at West.
“This culture is very different,” 13-year-old Lee Bu Geon said. “America is more free.”
Kim Hyun Sung, also 13, said she was surprised by how American food is sweeter than what she is used to in Korea.