Adam Martin of Fairmont

Adam Martin of Fairmont (right) is shown standing with a South Korean soldier inside one of the negotiation and peacekeeping buildings that straddle the DMZ in Seoul, Korea. Martin spent a semester at Korea University. An unidentified friend stands at left.

When the majority of area students go to college in August, they are attending either Fairmont State or West Virginia University, or perhaps another state school.

But not Adam Martin, at least not last August.

Adam flew to South Korea to attend Korea University for a semester. And he’s really glad he did.

“I had wanted to study in Africa or Asia in WVU’s nontraditional study-

abroad program,” he explained. “I had

planned to go to one of those two (continents), but Seoul had a better program — a strong English-speaking program that appealed to me because I didn’t speak any foreign languages. So I went to Seoul, Korea.”

This was the beginning of his junior year of college.

“The university has 13 exchange programs,” he says. “If you pay your tuition, room and board here, you can switch places with a student from the country where you are going.”

Martin admits he was nervous arriving in Seoul because he didn’t speak the language.

“I didn’t know how I would get to the school from the airport. I was just nervous in general, not knowing what to expect.

“But I got lucky. I was at the airport trying to figure out which bus to catch or get on and there was a group of students at the airport from China, and they were going to the same college and they had a friend who had been to the school.”

Martin described Korea University as being a school of 35,000 students, located in the middle of the city. Seoul has a population of 10.5 million within the city itself with 25 million in metropolitan area, he said.

“Korea University is a very good school. It’s the only school in Korea that places among the top 150 universities in the world. They want to offer half of all undergraduate classes in English-speaking courses by 2010.”

He says each of his classes was taught in English. He took 14 hours — an upper-level biology course, a Korean culture class, the history of East Asian civilizations, gender and society, near biology, Korean art history and international economics.

“I kept pretty busy but the 14 hours were less than I had ever taken at WVU. So I had plenty of time to study and to go around and see things.”

Martin said nearly all the children up to college age speak English pretty well.

“They can read English better than they can speak it, though,” he said.

“Older people — some have learned (English) and some haven’t. A lot of people are really interested in the American culture ... our TV shows ... our books. Our TV shows are on Korean TV ... ‘Desperate Housewives,’ ‘Family Guy,’ ‘ER,’ ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ with subtitles in Korean.”

Koreans follow the American sports scene fairly closely.

“They know all about the Pittsburgh Steelers because Hines Ward was half-Korean. They especially follow baseball and soccer,” he said.

Martin explained that Seoul has international newspapers available and one major Korean paper printed in English. “They also have USA Today in English,”

He said one would have to visit the American section of Seoul to find all the magazines, newspapers and books published in English.

Asked if the Koreans held any animosity about U.S. participation in the Korean War, he didn’t find much, if any.

“A lot of them were appreciative that we participated in the war. Some did say ‘thank you’ for helping them.

“There were especially some older Koreans who didn’t like the fact their country is being Americanized. They feel their culture was being lost. It is, in a lot of ways, I guess. To the Koreans, their culture is very important.”

Martin said there was more resistance to outside cultures, and especially American, than there is in Japan and China.

“I think one thing — when I would see older people, in their 60s and 70s and knowing that when they were born, they were born under Japanese occupation. And then there was the Korean War. They have come from being the second poorest country in world to 11th largest economy. They have seen so much change.”

And Korea really was beautiful, he said.

“The whole country is mountains. Even Seoul is built in the center of a ring of mountains ... in and around mountains.”

Martin is majoring in biology and premed. At Fairmont Senior High he was a member of the National Honor Society, graduated with highest honors, and ran cross country and track for four years.

His parents are Ray and Tina Martin of Fairmont. Adam has a younger brother, who is a freshman at WVU.

E-mail John Veasey at jcveasey@timeswv.com.

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