COLUMBIA - For a moment, imagine that you are a student studying for a semester in South Korea.
The language bears absolutely no resemblance to English, the cultural context of life is largely unrecognizable and the food is unfamiliar. A lifetime of learning to read people and relate is suddenly irrelevant in many ways.
This type of situation can either terrify or excite, and Friday night one like it inspired a little of both in three South Korean students studying at MU.
For them, the scenario is reversed: They’ve come to the strange and unfamiliar mid-Missouri for the semester. With local culture on display in the form of Homecoming house decorations in Greek Town, Minsor Lee, Bora Lim, and Min Ju wandered through the throng of Mizzou enthusiasts, gaping and laughing and looking perplexed.
The Multi-Cultural Greek Council took the students on the tour because they’d never experienced homecoming before. But Lim says she had homecoming at her high school. Lee described a festival held at her school every year that resembles the bedlam of Greek Town during the display of house decorations — except that there’s no pomping or twirled tissue paper, and only students attend.
The tour made its way to a skit, which the South Koreans watched alongside families clad in black and gold. Homecoming’s theme this year was video games, and in the performance a pair of Army Men — from the game of the same title — saved MU’s mascot Truman the Tiger after he was captured by some Red Raiders, the mascot of Texas Tech University, this year’s Homecoming weekend football opponent. The skit ended amidst a flurry of school spirit, and Lee, Lim and Ju clapped along with the crowd.
When talking about what they saw, they wore through words like “interesting.” The coordinator of the student’s program, Persephone Dakopolos, said the three can be hard to read and that much of what they are feeling and thinking must be “multiplied by a lot” to correctly adjust for their understatement.
The pomped backdrop featured some army men and enormous condiment bottles emblazoned with Greek letters. Ju was a little confused.
“I don’t have any background, so can you explain the army men and 7UP and ketchup?” she asked.
Lim mirrored Ju’s sentiment.
“I couldn’t understand it one-hundred percent,” she said.
After their exploration of Greek Town came to a close, Lee, Lim and Ju prepared to head back. They had an early morning facing them, as they were slated to march in Saturday morning’s homecoming parade.
“I feel kind of warm because here ... there are lots of families,” Ju said.