Greenville University is a liberal arts school located in Greenville, Illinois in the United States. The small, rural campus is only 45 miles away from the large city of St. Louis, Missouri, so students can experience both, a small town and a sprawling metropolis.

SchoolApply interviewed South Korean student, YeJin Han about her academic and social experiences in the Mid-Western United States.


Location: Greenville, Illinois (USA)

Student Name: YeJin Han

Age: 19

From: South Korea

Graduation: 2020

Greenville University student in blog 1


Favourite class: I LOVE my University Physics III class! As my teacher says, this class teaches you the “weird stuff”. I didn’t know how crazy and insane our world was until I took this class. So far, I’ve covered the topics of time dilation and quantum mechanics, and I love these peculiar, magical, yet scientific studies I am learning.

Favourite local event: I love the Hispanic festival! This event is actually held in St. Louis, Missouri; however, the university arranges transportation for the students. I get to eat a lot of delicious Latin American food at the festival that is hard to come across otherwise. I grew up in Latin America, and being able to talk to people from there while eating tacos or churros makes me blissful.

I would use one definition of culture from Raymond Williams (1976) to show my understanding on what GU education stands out: We value ‘growth and tending’ of our international students.

- Kang Sun, Director of Student Services, Greenville University

Five words to describe Greenville University: Active, Caring, Lively, Busy, Fun

Tell us a little about yourself and your previous school experiences.

I am South Korean by blood, but I was born in Colombia. When I was a year old, I moved to Chile for 7 years and then moved to South Korea for 2 years. I then moved to Mexico for 9 years and now I’m here in Greenville, Illinois!

I was a Christian missionary kid and my parents sent me Christian mission schools whenever they could. For the most part, the schools I attended were very small - I was the only student in my high school class, so I graduated alone! The way the system works in these types of schools is that the students’ parents usually teach the class subjects. It was a drawback at times, since there were cases when my teachers weren’t experts in the field they were teaching. Also, oftentimes, the parents were incapable of teaching higher education classes, so I ended up studying Calculus I, high school physics and University Physics on my own through textbooks or via Khan Academy online.

Greenville University student in blog 2

What made you decide to study in the US?

Imagine this. You are a Korean girl growing up in Latin America attending a school where you are learning American Government. Everything I learned was based on USA’s education system and culture, so it was my dream since grade school to pursue my higher education in America. I wanted to live the culture I was studying.

Did you have any problems adjusting to life in a new country and university? If so, how did you overcome them?

Yes. My whole life I had grown up in big cities, but Greenville is a small town. Living in a new, foreign place that doesn’t really seem to have any connection to what you’re used to was strange. However, when I started meeting and making new friends, they helped me adjust to my new life on campus.

I also struggled with the cultural differences I encountered here. Sometimes, I found out that my every day actions (as per Latin American/Korean standards) were either considered rude, strange or funny in the US. Once again, my friends helped me out by patiently answering my endless questions, no matter how silly they seemed. It took me a while to get a grasp on what is and what isn’t acceptable here, but asking for information and learning by observation has helped me overcome this challenge.

Greenville University student in blog 3

What has your academic and social experience been like as an international student at Greenville University?

As an international student at Greenville, my experience has been great so far. I have met so many professional and attentive teachers - I genuinely appreciate the amount of time the teachers here invest in their students. The professors at Greenville know every one of their students and aspire to get to know them, both inside and outside the classroom.

Greenville is located in a small, rural area where there isn’t too much to do in the vicinity. (There’s good pizza though!) Some of my friends have cars, and they have taken me outside of town plenty of times. Within 30 to 45 minutes, you can get to malls, restaurants, and other places to hang out.

Every two weeks, the school takes the international students to the international food market. Also, the International Admissions departments organises events and activities for the students. The campus itself is full of activities, and there’s always something new to do every week.

What degree are you pursuing? Do your current studies support your interest and talent?

I am currently pursuing a degree in engineering. I really enjoyed my physics classes and I also seemed to appreciate hands-on projects, so I ended up choosing this academic path.

I’ve always been interested in the sciences. More than anything, I am someone who wants to understand how everything works. Engineering really incorporates the sciences and its applications. Engineering stretches your mind; it forces you to think outside the box and see what real life applications there are to the multiple subjects you are studying. Without a good understanding of how the physical world works, it’s hard to be a good engineer.

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How has Greenville University prepared you for life after university?

I’m still in university, but I can definitely say that Greenville University has and is still preparing me to shape the world around me in a unique way. Its liberal arts system ensures that I am not only proficient in my field of study, it focuses on making me a well-rounded individual. The professors teach us how to think critically and this makes me feel more equipped for life after graduation.

What were your first impressions of Greenville University?

The first few days on campus were pretty intimidating. I started university in January, instead of September like most other students. Since I started at an odd time, I was afraid that it would be hard to make new friends. In the beginning I forced myself to try really hard to reach out and meet new people. After a while, however, I realized how warm and welcoming the people were here.

It was strange to arrive at my residence hall, somewhere very different and far away from home. I missed my old room and missed living with my family. But once I made some friends, I felt like I had found a new and different type of family in the residence hall.

Right before I started classes, I was honestly so scared. I kept thinking, “Where am I going to sit? What if I can’t find the classroom? What if I don’t make friends in my class? What if my teacher is mean?”… And I will say I actually did get lost on the first day of classes. But, everyone was so helpful in guiding me through the buildings, and I soon learned my way around campus.

I guess the biggest change that comes with attending university away from home is independence. Being far away from my parents and home is hard. It feels strange to not have my parents constantly watching over me and making sure I am doing alright. I’m so glad and thankful for technology, as it enables me to Skype or text my parents whenever I need them.

Greenville University student in blog 4

Do you take part in any extracurricular activities at Greenville University?

Not really. I personally have been busy studying for my major, working, and maintaining my friendships, so I haven’t really had the time to join a group or club, but the option is always open to me.

Do you have a job while studying? If yes, please elaborate on this experience.

I did and I still do have a job! Studying and having a job on campus can be very challenging. It’s hard to manage your studies and work at the same time. Maintaining my studies was very stressful in the beginning because I started work almost immediately after I arrived on campus.

Campus life was something very new and strange to me, and I wish I had not immediately started working once I arrived on campus. Instead of focusing on one thing at a time, I ended up learning two new things at the same time - how classes worked and how my job worked. There were several occasions in which I missed the cafeteria hours and failed to eat because I didn’t know the cafeteria closed at a certain time. In the end, asking for advice as to how best to manage my time made a huge difference and made studying and working at the time possible.

What would you say to international students who are considering studying at Greenville University?

Before anyone comes to Greenville University, they should be aware of the type of location they would be coming to, because living in the countryside is definitely not for everyone! If you’re someone who enjoys constantly going out and buying what you need immediately, it will definitely take you some time to get used to Greenville. However, I do want to point out that Greenville’s community really makes up for its small size! It has such an active campus, and if you get involved, you will never get bored.

I also love, and cannot stop pointing out, how caring the professors are at Greenville. My teachers have been very caring, attentive, and patient with me. Apart from the academic side, teachers also care about building a relationship with their students.

Greenville University is a small university, but going small can be big! Because of its small size, it is always possible to meet someone new. It’s also fun to constantly run into my friends and catch up with them. The university really encourages togetherness and the activities they plan get people involved and ensure that no one is missing out on the university experience. I’ve grown so much as a person in Greenville, and I cannot imagine that happening if the university purely focused on academics.

Is there anything you would like to add, that maybe we haven't asked?

I want to add that university should not be a place where we only grow intellectually. University is so different from anything I’ve experienced before - it’s scary, intimidating, and stressful at times, but it’s so worth every minute. Meeting people from different backgrounds has expanded my world in countless ways. Perhaps I’ll never experience what it feels like to live beside the Amazon River or to grow up Amish, but listening to people who have done so constantly reminds me how big the world is. There is so much to learn, see, and explore and coming to Greenville University has been the most encouraging and exciting thing that has happened in my life.

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