From the left: Karl Espling, Hans Espling, me, Annika Espling, Damian from Germany

Finding Another Comfort Zone in the U.S.

Minkyung shares how her host family helped make the U.S. a new home for her while studying and how she got to meet people from all over the world!

Minkyung Shin from South Korea submitted the following article to ISV Magazine. She lived with her host family while attending Seattle Central College. She now attends Pennsylvania State University-University Park.  Have a story you’d like to share?  

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My parents always told me, “Study hard. You can hang out and party with your friends after you are done with everything.” What they meant by ‘everything’ was probably getting a job. Oh mom.

So, I wanted to be a good daughter to them and I promised them that I would study hard and do my best while I am studying abroad in the U.S. But my promise has changed after I met my crazy host family in Seattle. I would like to call them ‘Esplings’. Esplings have a Filipino American as a mom and a wife. She is the one who brings all the crazy international friends and opens the minds of her family. Every summer and winter (I felt like it was a yearlong project), her friends from all over the world visited Seattle to meet her. I’ll be honest, they were so good!! Usually we don’t really want to travel to the same place more than three times  (I mean I don’t mind if someone pays for my trip). But those friends have visited Seattle for over 20 years.

For me greeting all of them was a bit of challenge because I wasn’t confident enough to speak English and sometimes having too many people at the same time is just a bomb. I lived in a pretty big house having eight rooms, four fridges and a swimming pool. Except for 100 days, 265 days are full of guests. How amazing is that? Even after living with them for two years, I still wonder how the Esplings handled this.

This is the rooftop view of the house where I lived with my host family.
This is the rooftop view of the house where I lived with my host family.


There is one person I really need to highlight. His name is David. He is my host mom’s older brother, so he is also a Filipino American. He was always teasing me and talking to me. He was the one giving me a hard time in a good way. I had been asked,“Why do you always hang out with Koreans?” I couldn’t argue with that because I didn’t have words in my mind. Then he explained things to me that I should really try to make American friends. What he was saying was if I just want to learn English I can do that in Korea, but since I am in the U.S., there are lots of opportunities that I can take and I should use them. He always stroke up a conversation with me and I had to answer. I think this improved my English a lot and changed my mind to experience as many things as possible. Thanks David.

Kids play lots of sports like soccer, football, lacrosse, swimming, and basketball. I was kind of pushed to participate what they were doing and went to their games a lot. It was lots of fun and I got some idea of how Americans are living.

This is the picture of the day I left Seattle
This is the picture of the day I left Seattle

Staying with an American host family doesn’t necessarily mean international students have real an American experience because it depends. If an international student doesn’t get involved that much into host family, the student is just doing his or her own things in the U.S.

However, luckily my host family loves me a lot and they always wanted me to go everywhere with them. With a bombarding, huge family and huge house, I could experience true American life. I was obviously balancing out between studying and spending time with family but that experience was better than reading books to learn a culture. Studying in a second language was not easy, yet there was always the crazy host family by my side who helped me out and understand.

I don’t want to think about how much my host family and I were crying when we said good bye at the Sea-Tac airport. We filmed a movie. It was one of the saddest moments in my life. At the same time I have been so much blessed that I have them in my life.  There is a place that I can always go back to and be welcomed.

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