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East meets west in Farmington

Most people would never consider Farmington an exotic location. It is simply home. Home to Knights football, Hunt’s Dairy Bar and Country Days. It’s a city known for its historic downtown as well as its open spaces and proximity to beautiful parks and miles of trails.

But for Dawon Jeong, 20, an exchange student from South Korea, Farmington is much more than that. It’s exciting, new and completely different than what she is accustomed to in Korea. For almost a month, Jeong will have experienced the best the area has to offer.

“I really like it here,” Jeong said. “I don’t think I want to go home. I have seen some very nice places like Johnson Shut-ins and Elephant Rocks, and I even went to a dairy farm and milked a cow.”

Arriving less than a month ago, Jeong is part of the IFYE Exchange Program, a two-way student exchange program that allows students to travel to cities all over the world. The program, which was once associated with the National 4-H Foundation promotes “Peace through Understanding.”

The program, which was originally started in 1948, sent 17 Americans to seven countries in the Western Europe while six European students traveled to the United States. According IFYE’s web site, since then approximately 8,000 students have lived with host families in 116 different countries.

Jeong, who is from Daegu, South Korea, attends Daegu University where she will be starting her junior year when she returns home in September. As a language therapy major, she is hoping to become a special education teacher once she completes her education.

But in addition to wanting to become a teacher, Jeong is also interested in agriculture and is a member of her school’s 4-H club.

“I want to become a teacher,” Jeong said. “But some of the students are becoming farmers and working in agriculture. I want to help them, so when I return I want to share my experience of my time here with them.”

It was through her participation with 4-H that led Jeong to Farmington and her participation in the IFYE program.

“I was in charge of promoting 4-H in my city,” Jeong said. “My 4-H leader suggested I participate in the IFYE program. Most of the people who have already participated told me I need to go and experience as much as I can.”

While in Farmington, Jeong has noticed a great many differences from her home country. From housing to interaction with others, Jeong talked about how different the cultures are in comparison.

“Most Americans live in houses,” Jeong said. “But in Korea, most of us live in apartments. The building are usually 25 stories. I actually live on the 17th floor. I really want to live in a house. I also live in the city, so it is nice to live where there is a lot of open area.”

In addition to the difference in living space, Jeong also mentioned how different the people are as well, particularly how Americans say “hello” – even if they don’t know each other.

“Most people in America will say ‘hello’ to me,” Jeong said. “But in Korea, most people do not, especially when they pass you on the street.”

According to Jeong and her host, Faye Worley, the food is also quite different. Most notably, Koreans eat rice every day, but do not eat much beef because of the expense.

“Beef in the United States is very cheap,” Jeong said. “But in my country it isn’t. It is very expensive because it has to be imported from the United States or Australia.”

One of the benefits of being a host family, according to Worley, is the opportunities to learn about each other’s culture.

“It’s been a long time since I have hosted a student,” Worley said. “But it has been a good thing having Dawon with us. We have had a good time and both of us have learned a lot. Dawon cooked us a Korean dinner, which was a lot of fun, and we have had hamburgers, which she really enjoys.”

One of Jeong’s more unique experience while in Farmington occurred last week when she spent most of the week at the St. Francois County Fair helping set up exhibits and taking in some of the other events the fair has to offer.

“She has helped us take in exhibits and set up the hall,” Worley said. “She also got to watch the ‘Sale of Champions,’ and got to see monster trucks.”

Jeong did add that they do have fairs similar to the county fair in her country but they are nowhere near as large nor do they have as many exhibits because of living in an urban area.

But although there has been some stark differences between life in Daegu and life in Farmington, Jeong shares some of the same past times as her American counterparts.

“I love to travel,” Jeong said. “I have been to Australia, Japan and Canada as well as the United States. I also like meeting my friends, having something to eat while we talk.”

Jeong also admits, like most young people, she loves to shop.

Although Jeong will be leaving Farmington on Saturday, she will not be immediately leaving the United States. Her next stop will be Jefferson City, as well as plans to visit the state fair and experience the solar eclipse.

Jeong also plans on doing some traveling while she is in the United States as well. She plans to visit the Grand Canyon and Walt Disney World before heading back to Daegu and starting a new semester at the university.

When asked what she will miss when she leaves Farmington, Jeong easily answered, “I will miss my host family most of all.”

For a short period of time, Farmington became home for 20-year-old Dawon Jeong of South Korea, who took part in a IFYE Exchange Program. During her state in Farmington, Jeong visited a dairy farm, milked a cow and even lent a hand at the St. Francis County Fair.  

For a short period of time, Farmington became home for 20-year-old Dawon Jeong of South Korea, who took part in a IFYE Exchange Program. During her state in Farmington, Jeong visited a dairy farm, milked a cow and even lent a hand at the St. Francis County Fair.  

For four weeks, Dawon Jeong, 20-year-old of Daegu, South Korea, lived with Faye Worley of Farmington as part of an exchange program sponsored by IFYE. The program, which was once a part of 4-H, sends students abroad to promote

For four weeks, Dawon Jeong, 20-year-old of Daegu, South Korea, lived with Faye Worley of Farmington as part of an exchange program sponsored by IFYE. The program, which was once a part of 4-H, sends students abroad to promote “Peace through Understanding.”

While working for a week at the St. Francis County Fair, exchange student Dawon Jeong, left, spent time with Emma Grace Govreau, this year's St. Francois County Fair Queen. Govreau took Jeong around to various event during their time together at the fair.  

While working for a week at the St. Francis County Fair, exchange student Dawon Jeong, left, spent time with Emma Grace Govreau, this year’s St. Francois County Fair Queen. Govreau took Jeong around to various event during their time together at the fair.  

Craig Vaughn is a reporter for the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-756-8927 or at cvaughn@farmingtonpressonline.com

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