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Students in the News

This is Hoonji

I hold my sides with laughter. It is the most marvelous moment to talk in different languages with people who have very different appearances. Could I have imagined this scene four years ago? No. For fourteen years, I had never been to another country. I had never had a passport. I had never thought that my life would be different from the way I had lived. But now I am in New York, across the Pacific Ocean, without my family and friends.


Now I admit this transition, but at one time, I did not want to accept the difference because I strongly believed that I would not change, like a rock, regardless of any situation. I couldn’t stop pretending to others that I had not changed. One day, when I was joking around with my friends in English and laughing, I suddenly realized that I had changed. I would not be the same person as before.

So was I sad and depressed? No. I love my life and I am satisfied with my present self. To tell you the truth, I don’t know where and what began to change initially. Perhaps it was at first an unnoticeable change, but these tiny changes accumulated and eventually changed my whole life and created the current Hoonji Jang.

I had to decide every important matter by myself and all decisions involved risks, but these decisions made me rational and determined. Rather than relying on my parents and friends, I had to rely on myself, and the responsibilities of my newfound independence made me stronger. Also, the experience of being abroad gave me a new outlook of life. In Korea, I was a frog in the well who knew nothing of the great ocean. I didn’t know that the world was vast. But now the wide and unlimited world excites me to look for what I want to do and what I can do.


Possibly, coming to the US was the most risky choice in my life. But this risk became the point where as Robert Frost once said in his poem, “two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” Yes, it was the turning point.

I have had four host families during four years of my life in America. Every year was a new beginning. I had to meet new people and give them a wary hug in the airport.

I had to learn their new rules, memorize new phone numbers, and be another member of their family. Even though they accepted me with amiable warmth, I still felt like a guest to them, since I had not been a part of their prior lives as a family. I soon noticed the emotional gap between the host families and me.

I got over this hurdle. I am still learning, but at least, I know how to shrink the gap between my host families and me. How did I deal with it? Honesty. I approached them first and showed my understanding of their hardship, “Thank you for accepting me into your family. I know that you might feel awkward because we have had different lives, but I am ready and willing to be a part of your family. I really am.” These three short sentences have helped change my situation tremendously. Since I am willing to openly address a usually taboo topic, my host family and I can develop a deeper understanding of one another and form a more lasting relationship. We can fit into each other’s lives.

Now, when my host parents introduce themselves they say, “We have three children: Owen, Lucy and Hoonji.” Yes, I am truly a part of their family.