I have done OU Cousins every year since I started attending OU (and that I was on campus). Of course, I joined the program again this year, but I had a newfound desire to be a good cousin after returning home from study abroad. At Kyungpook National University (KNU) in Daegu, South Korea, they have a similar program, but they refer to theirs as a “buddy program.” Buddies are randomly assigned, so while both my buddies were extremely kind (I got a new one each semester), I didn’t feel like I became very close with either of them. They were both wonderful girls, we just didn’t “click” in the way I sometimes do with friends I meet organically rather than being assigned as partners. On the other hand, the process to become a buddy at KNU is more rigorous, and as a result I got buddies who were always ready to help me when I contacted them. To become a buddy, you must apply, be screened, be interviewed, and demonstrate some level of proficiency in a foreign language. It’s not at all like OU Cousins where you simply register and are in–your application for KNU Buddies could be rejected. As a result, although they still have some problems, I think the buddies at KNU were much more committed to the program than some OU cousins.
I say this because I myself wasn’t very committed to OU Cousins in my freshman and sophomore years. I joined with good intentions, but I felt like I dropped the ball and really let my cousins down. I didn’t contact my buddies enough; even if I didn’t have time to hang out, I should have checked in on them more often. I might use the excuse of being busier than I thought I would be those two years, but I certainly wasn’t as busy then as I am now, and I like to think I’m doing a better job as a cousin now. I could certainly be better–the last few weeks I really have been feeling overwhelmed by schoolwork, so I haven’t seen as much of my cousin. But before that, we met quite a bit, and I plan to keep searching for time in my schedule to meet her. After studying abroad, I know how important it is to have a good buddy, especially when you first arrive. I want to be someone that exchange students can go to for help if they need it, or just to be a friend (with a car to go places) that is always open to hanging out.
This year, my OU Cousin’s name is Yooseung Lee. She attends KNU (where I studied abroad!!), although we never actually met there. We met for the first time at OU, at one of the first meetings for the Korean Conversation Club. Immediately, I could tell Yooseung had a very bright and fun personality.Her English is excellent and armed with that and her outgoing, fun personality, she has been able to make countless friends at OU. I tend to be a bit shy upon first meeting, but she was friendly and very easy to talk to. Hanging out with her reminds me of hanging out with my friends in Korea; we talk in a mix of Korean and English about anything and everything.
As I mentioned early, I haven’t been able to meet Yooseung as much as I wanted to, especially in the past few weeks. Nevertheless, we have been a few places together. For example, we went to the Oklahoma State Fair with her roommates (also exchange students), and it was fun to watch the child-like wonder of the girls experiencing their first state fair. They were amazed by things I took for granted. That, by the way, is one of the best things about meeting people from other countries–they remind you how good, bad, or just strange something is that you normally take for granted. One of Yooseung’s roommates is from Austria, and she said that although they have festivals sort of similar to the state fair in Austria, there was something uniquely American about the greasy fried food and garish landscape of the state fair.
Yooseung and I have also gone to Oklahoma City with some other Korean exchange students. Norman is nice, but OKC is where my ol’ stomping grounds are, so I wanted to show Yooseung a place with which I was more familiar. We went to the area near my high school and ate South American food at Cafe Kacao, shopped ’til we dropped at Penn Square Mall, and visited the asian market where they were shocked that we carried so many products they had at home (and also at the high import-taxed prices). Afterwards, we went back to Norman and one of the girls was kind enough to feed our hungry bellies. We went to her apartment and although she made just simple ramen and rice dishes, it was delicious, and more so because we ate it all together, talking like old friends.