Chantilly High School embraces Korean Culture

Shivani Sethu, Staff writer

Whether it be the food, the language or the music, Korean culture is getting steadily more assimilated into the lives of American youth. With the increasing population of Koreans in this area, it seems students are surrounded by evidence of Korean integration. Chantilly High School has embraced the culture and undergone efforts to make Korean learning prominent in our school. 

“We have a large Korean population here in the county,” Assistant Principal Tim O’Reilly, the administrator in charge of the new Korean exchange program, said. “We saw an opportunity to enrich that exchange between students in Korea and students here.”

In the coming spring, six Chargers are hosting foreign exchange students from Korea before traveling there to experience school life and tour the country.

“I really want to see the fashion [and] culture, just being surrounded by the people and immersed in the language,” senior Cecelia Ohanian, who will be participating in the program, said. 

Last month, Principal Scott Poole took a trip to South Korea with other FCPS leaders, visiting schools to teach them about FCPS education and learn about the Korean education system. Poole traveled the same route that Chantilly’s students will take this spring and he was met with a warm welcome. 

“They really go out of their way to treat you well when you come,” Poole said. “They had hot tea; they give you food, little biscuits and treats. In the United States, you might get water and chips.”

While touring the country, Poole, along with School Board Member Ilryong Moon and Assistant Superintendent Rebecca Baenig, visited nine different schools and gave speeches about the future of American education. They attended panels in which they engaged in discussions with hundreds of local parents and administrators.

“They’re blown away by our Academy because in Korea, all the kids take the same courses at the same time. There’s much more uniformity across the whole country,” Poole said. “Most of the high schools have a thousand kids. I told them we have 3,700 kids; they couldn’t believe it.”

While on his trip, Poole observed the life of Korean students, many of whom would arrive at school between 8 and 8:30 a.m. and leave at 9 or 10 p.m., only to go straight to private tutoring until midnight. 

“There is really a desire for change among a growing number of Korean families,” Poole said. “More student-centered learning, integrated education, more real-life experiences, cooperative learning.”

In addition to the new exchange program and Poole’s travels to Korea, Chantilly has further welcomed Korean learning through the start of its first-ever Korean language class. 

“To bring [Korean] here to the school [is] pretty good because we’re able to influence others about the Korean language and spread it,” senior and Korean 1 student Sasha Gonzalez said. 

Korea is one of the many regions in the world that is gaining recognition among Americans, and its presence will continue to influence our community with the development of these programs.