There and Back Again: Returning to Commerce from South Korea

Jason Nam, Staff Reporter

What did you do just a few months ago? Did you take summer classes? Well, it might seem odd to some of you guys, but I was serving my mandatory service as a conscripted policeman just a few months ago. Yes, I am from South Korea, and we have a mandatory military service duty. I was watching Guardians of the Galaxy at a movie theater in Korea around two years ago (I was not in the military at this time). I was starting my first semester at Texas A&M University-Commerce four and a half years ago. Now, I am a returning student. I am writing this at the Gee Library. How strange is that? In five years I came here, went back to Korea, did my military service and came back again. It’s like a circle.

At first, my feelings about Commerce were that it was fine – not good, but not bad. I expected that my life in America was going to be busy and exciting as I watched American movies and drama. But, in reality, it was a small university town. I missed Korean food, and I missed my friends back from my lovely hometown. I missed good transportation systems, so that I could go wherever I wanted to go. I had difficulty understanding all of my classes because of my bad English language skills. However, I was able to overcome my hardship. I just decided to think positively. I smiled all the time. And then, guess what? People started to be close with me, and I asked them for help. They sincerely helped me a lot. Eventually, when I had to go back to Korea for my military service duty, I did not want to leave here. I started to fall in love with Commerce, Texas.

During the military service, it was super boring and hard. All training and work, and there were plenty of rules and regulations. I shared a space with 30 guys. Can you imagine a small and thin Asian guy like me spending time training and working as a conscripted policeman during 21 months and still alive? I was able to get over it, because I learned how to get used to being at a new environment away from Commerce.

When I returned to Commerce, I found that it was different than when I left. All of my friends graduated. I miss them. Some of them even got married and left Texas. I was very happy to meet my old friend, Caroline Carlson. She was an undergraduate student before I left for Korea, but now she is a graduate student and she is teaching international students at the A&M-Commerce English Language Institute.

There have been many different changes to the facilities at A&M-Commerce. The library now has a back door. They also have a 3D printer available for student use. How cool is that? The cafeteria is bigger than before. There was not a Phase 2 dormitory. The pharmacy next to Whitley Hall is new.

Commerce is such a kind and lovely city. The people here remember me. I met professors that I took classes from, and they remembered me and welcomed my return. I am happy to be back here. I am struggling with English again, but my new friends and professors are helping me.

We don’t know what the future holds. For me, when I was in high school, I didn’t know that I would later study abroad. I didn’t know I would go to the military service in the middle of my college career. What I experienced could happen to anybody. If you are a freshmen or a returning student, you might feel difficulty adapting to the new environment. If you are going to graduate school soon, you might be scared of the professional world. But, don’t worry. You will make it. Just take a look around you. Find someone who can help you and be positive.