The Exchange Students Who Wanted Romance

When I was professor at a Korean university, two American girls were sent for a  semester to our university.  They were studying Teaching English as  a Second Language, and theoretically, that is why they came, but since I was made responsible to show them around and they were in a lot of my classes, I realized they had a different agenda from learning how to teach English as a second language. They weren’t very serious students.  They were looking for Korean boyfriends, but initially, no one knew.  They just looked strange to everyone.

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At the beginning, I picked them up at the airport and showed them their rooms.  I took them shopping for things they needed and showed them stores they could reach easily.  I had a class, but they were needing to be shown the subway so they could go anywhere they wanted.  I asked a student to take them to the subway and teach them how to use it, and he came back completely confused by the way they were acting thinking, “It must be because they are from a different culture.”

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Lots of students hung out in my office back then, and we sat around reading the Bible in English together a lot. These girls couldn’t speak Korean, and I invited them to join the group reading the Bible in English, and they came.  They got to know the students who were reading the Bible in English in my office and caused a lot of trouble with them.  Those students were so confused by these girls.  At first, the group thought one of them was extremely funny!  She was like a circus act.  She could turn her feet around completely backwards.  The guys laughed and laughed saying she should put herself on the internet.  They didn’t realized she was just trying to get their attention because she wanted a boyfriend.  The problem was neither of the girls was really pretty or sweet.

When they met the boy students from the English Bible study in other places, they sat and talked to them.  They were trying to convince everyone that it was funny to be mean.  They performed and tried to make all the boys laugh.  They snubbed the girls. I didn’t realize initially what was going on. But eventually, from student’s comments, I learned they were flirting with all the boys and treating the girls badly.

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There was a handsome boy from Bangladesh who was always at the Bible studies who had begun to feel like he wanted to run when they were around, but he was too nice and polite to say anything to them.  One of the girls had a crush on him.  During one of the Bible studies, something strange was going on, but I couldn’t quite figure it out.  One of the Korean boys grabbed the Bangladeshi boy’s hand, and the Bangladeshi boy was turning beet red!  I asked him why he grabbed his hand, and all he could say was, “We are great friends!”  After the Bible study, I learned one of the American girls was trying to play footsy with the boy from Bangladesh under the table, and he was trying to get away. The Korean boy  knew what was going on, thought it was funny and made him stay put and put up with it.

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Also after that Bible study, the American girl called the boy from Bangladesh up and asked him to go to the movies with her and her friend. The American girls planned on  her friend ditching them, and she would end up on a date with the Bangladeshi boy.  The Bangladeshi boy didn’t know her plan, but he still wasn’t sure he wanted to go.  He wanted to be kind to foreigners, so he accepted going and had a plan of his own. He had a friend from the Bible study who was a very nice, pretty girl who wasn’t aggressive at all.  He accepted the request to go to the movies, and afterward, he asked the nice girl to go with them.  He thought he was being smart and getting protection, and still being kind to the American exchange students.  When the American girls learned that he had invited someone else to come, they cancelled. Their plan didn’t work.

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The student who had taken them to the subway to show them around called me up.  He was trying to explain to me the kinds of things the girls were doing. He was completely confused by them and wanted to know if I could explain what they were doing.  I am enough American that I could see what they were doing, and I was embarrassed by the way they were acting.  The Koreans and the Bangladeshi boy just didn’t know what to do with these girls. When they boy called me up confused, I explained to him that they were looking for boyfriends and apologized for their actions.  After all, I am American, and they were American, and they were making America look really silly.  He told me it was okay, and he just wanted to understand them, and we said goodbye and hung up.

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The next thing you know, the  Korean boy who had taken them to the subway was dating one of the American girls. He had never had a girlfriend before, and he decided to take one of them up on wanting a boyfriend. He thought the idea of an American girlfriend was exciting.  He had never kissed a girl. He had never even held a girl’s hand, but he was ready to learn. He and one of the American girls became inseparable.  He let her put whatever move on him she wanted. He didn’t run, and he enjoyed it. One of the girls got the romance she wanted! Koreans and Americans date differently, but this boy was learning to date how Americans date.

They had a real romance all semester, and then it came time for the girl to go back to America.  The Korean boy was serious. He didn’t want her to go, but she had to go.  They were with a group of us in a coffee shop, and they sat there holding hands on the verge of tears.  They couldn’t believe they had to separate!  The Korean boy probably thought they would get married because Koreans don’t date frivolously. The American girl had just had her summer romance.  She went back to America. He sent her emails, but he never heard from her again.  She went on with her life and forgot him. I went to a retreat, and the boy was there.  We were on a ferry coming back from the island where the retreat had been, and we sat on a bench on the deck. He was pouring his heart out to me about how the girl never even sent him one little message, and it had been six months.  I felt very bad for him.  I encouraged him and told him he would meet another girl. He graduated and went to the other side of Seoul to go to graduate school.

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The next time I met the Korean boy, it was at a wedding of a mutual friend.  He was with a gorgeous American girl.  He had a new American girlfriend!  He had learned about American girlfriends from the girl who wanted a romance and used the experience to his own benefit.  This American girlfriend was much prettier and sweeter than the first one, and she wanted to marry him.  In the end, he was the winner. None of us ever heard from those two crazy American girls again, but I did see on the internet that one of them was teaching English in Japan, and she is still single.



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