All The Way From Our Sister City, Anyang, South Korea

Every year, Garden Grove High School has the privilege of welcoming the Korean students of Anyang, our sister city in South Korea, through the Sister City Exchange Student Program. This year on January 19th, we opened our gates to a new group of Korean students and a few of their teachers, welcoming them with friendly posters, courtesy of ASB. Dr. Gabriela Mafi, the Superintendent of Garden Grove Unified School District, also joined us in the welcome ceremony.

The Korean students were first guided to the instrumental music room, where they were introduced to Mr. Winchell. The Orchestra then performed “Romanian Folk Dances”, a beautiful piece by Bela Bartok. John Nguyen (11), an orchestra student who played for the Korean students, shares, “Their reactions to our playing were not so different from ours, and I realized that they were like any other student here at GGHS.”

After Orchestra’s wonderful presentation, the Korean students entered the LMC for another performance, this time by the GGHS Choir. Ms. Galeener and Choir harmonized to Pentatonix’s “Take Me Home”, and sang a mashup of pop songs, from Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi” to Black Eyed Peas’ “Where is the Love”. After Choir finished with an inspiring performance of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’”, Mr. Osborne took to the podium and personally introduced the Korean students to Garden Grove High School.

He reflected upon “how lucky we are to welcome Korean students and how this date is the most important because we have special guests.” After describing the structure of our school district, Mr. Osborne introduced Dr. Gabriela Mafi, “our District Superintendent who is responsible and in charge of everything within the district” and thanked her for her presence.

Now going into the culture of GGHS, he shared the history behind our mascot, the Argonauts – how these people of “Ancient Greece traveled by ship to other cities in search of the Golden Fleece” which, to Mr. Osborne, represented knowledge.

Following Mr. Osborne’s remarks was a welcoming speech by Nathan Le, our ASB President. “One of the things that make GGHS such a great place,” Nathan spoke to the Korean students, “is the diversity. In my opinion, Garden Grove High is one of the most diverse high schools in this district, and I am sure you will find the most unique personalities on campus today.”

Finally, it was Dr. Mafi’s time to speak. “It’s such a pleasure to be hosting a group here so we can learn from one another,” she reflected, “and it’s our pleasure to be here with you and spend some time.” After she welcomed the Korean students, Korea Club members stepped forward and introduced themselves as the Korean students’ GGHS tour guides for the day.

The Korea Club and the Korean students had actually met earlier during a beach bonding event over the weekend. Chelsey Nguyen (11) shares, “I was nervous and shy, but as I got to interact with them more, I realized that the Korean students were just like us Americans.”

On the other hand, Anh Hoang (11), Korea Club President, expresses, “I was not nervous at all. Rather, I was super excited because I wanted to talk with them and ask them so many questions.”

When everyone was done introducing themselves, Korea Club members presented their gifts for their Korean partners. After everyone was paired up, the Anyang students got their pictures taken and received their very own GGHS IDs, officially making them Argonauts.

From there, the pairs walked about campus in small groups. They walked through the Michael Monsoor Memorial Football Stadium where PE was having their weekly mile. A notable moment was when the groups walked into the North Gym, where the Korean students faces lit up in awe. For most of the Korean students, it was their first time seeing a gym. Back in Anyang, the Korean students shared, they didn’t have any gyms, let alone an athletic program as big as ours. What seemed as just an ordinary gym to us had taken away the breaths of these foreign students.

“During the campus tour, my pair and I were able to communicate well despite the language barrier,” says Bach Le (11), one of the tour guides, “but there were a couple of times where Google Translate had to come in. We talked about their experience so far in America, the difference between our cultures, and their trip to Disneyland.”

As the mini campus tour came to a close, the pairs walked to their classrooms and later regrouped at lunch where an assembly was held with performances by Korea Club, MECHa, and Mya Shimizu singing “P.Y.T.” by Michael Jackson. Followed by a game of dodgeball, Anyang students versus Garden Grove students.

Although the time was short, Korea Club president Anh Hoang believes that “the Student Exchange Program is a great experience because you get to meet people from the other side of the world you never would’ve met otherwise. And the people you meet aren’t celebrities or anything, they’re just students like us. I hope they really enjoyed visiting America and had fun that they can go home and tell their friends and families about us. As for us, I hope we can stay in touch with the Korean students and become good friends.”

And although we come from different cultures, Dr. Mafi acknowledges the benefits of diversity. “I think this program is very impactful for both Korean and American students because it broadens our interactions with people from other countries. Here at Garden Grove and in our district, we’re very diverse. We have many students from different ethnic backgrounds, and to have students who are currently living in other countries come to visit shows us that teenagers are teenagers, not matter where they live. We have more in common than we have differences, and it helps us to build bridges beyond oceans, beyond borders, beyond walls.”

We Argos are extremely thankful to have hosted the Anyang students on our campus and can’t wait welcome more groups of Anyang students in the years to come!