When Chaeha Kim from Gyeryong, South Korea, embarked on a foreign exchange program, she probably never dreamed she’d wind up with a journey to Odessa and a flag that flew over the Texas Capitol to take home with her.
Surrounded by classmates and media, Chaeha was presented with the flag in her world geography class at Permian High School Thursday by Principal Delesa Styles.
The flag and certificate was provided by State Rep. Brooks Landgraf, R-Odessa.
“Thank you for all your hard work and dedication to your studies. She has worked very hard. We had a group project earlier in the year about South Korea and North Korea, and the possibilities of reunification one day and her insight was very invaluable,” World Geography teacher Robert Brescia said. “Now, as a former scholar abroad myself, I can tell you it’s quite difficult to take lessons and go to school in a foreign language, but she did that and she did that very well.”
Especially during the pandemic, Styles said it was an honor to be able to recognize outstanding students.
Brescia said Chaeha was his student for a year and was at the honors level scoring in the high 90s.
Chaeha said she has been at Permian since August and said she was grateful to be recognized for her hard work.
She said she has enjoyed making new friends and has loved being at PHS. Everything was different for her in Odessa from the language and culture to the food. South Korea, she said, is 70 percent mountains and the area she is from is green.
While here, she kept in touch with her family by text and phone. She has a 14-year-old sister.
Chaeha added that she would encourage other students to try out exchange programs.
“I’m just thankful for everyone, my friends, all of my teachers. They helped me a lot because at first I had a problem listening (to) English. It was so hard, but now I want to stay here,” Chaeha said.
The 16-year-old added that she likes trying new things and wants to travel to more countries. Australia may be next on the list.
“But it was kind of scary at first and I missed my family, but now there are so many people around me that helped me,” Chaeha said.
When she gets older, Chaeha said she was thinking about working for a financial company, or going into the medical field.
The family she was staying with is Jesica and Steven Conant and their two sons. Steven Conant said they went through International Student Exchange.
“We just filled out the application and got lucky to have Chaeha. She’s so sweet and she’s been such a blessing to our family and for our two boys we have,” Jesica Conant said.
Jesica Conant said Chaeha has such a positive attitude about everything and is always so polite.
“She made friends really easily and she was a real good influence on our two sons,” she said.
Roselyn Esquivel, a 14-year-old ninth grader, said Chaeha was “really nice” and a good friend.
“She helps her a lot like when we’re working in groups and stuff,” Esquivel said.
Elizabeth Wilbanks, a world geography inclusion teacher, said Chaeha is a diligent student who gets excellent grades.
“She’s social. She has some really good friends that she’s really bonded with, so I think that she’s had a really good experience here. I think she’s brought a lot to the students, as well. … We’ve talked about North and South Korea, so she has a different insight …,” Wilbanks said.