From staff reports
An exchange of cultures can be a beautiful thing.
That was the case of a former exchange student who recently returned to visit her former “house parents” in Winston County.
Eight years ago Jihyeon Oh came to Winston County to attend Grace Christian as an exchange student hosted by Joel and Marilyn O’Briant.
“Mr. and Mrs. O’Briant took really good care of me,” Oh said. “And the overall kindness of those in the southern U.S. is something that I will always remember.”
During her time at Grace Christian, Oh enjoyed being in the small school that allowed for teachers to work closely with students. She also developed an interest in science and competed in Math and Science Competitions during her time at the school.
“The year in the United States changed my life,” Oh said. “I became more independent and stronger. I became more focused. My experience here taught me a lot and showed me what kind of person I am.”
Oh was also introduced to Christianity during her time at Grace Christian.
“The church here feels like a family,” Oh said. “Associating with others in the church really helped me grow as a Christian and a person.”
Having enjoyed her year at Grace Christian and with the O’Briants, Oh went on to attend college and is currently a teacher in South Korea.
“My experiences at Grace Christian helped me when I went to college and when applying for jobs,” Oh said.
With the school and the O’Briants making such an impact on her life, Oh returned to Winston County to visit the O’Briants and other friends she made during her time in Winston County.
During her visit, Joel brought Oh by the “Wrinkled Roosters,” an informal coffee and breakfast meeting place at Winston Furniture where she got to meet to Korean War veterans, Billy Pearson and Ester Taylor. Both men earned a Bronze Star in the Korean War.
Oh and O’Briant engaged in a conversation with both veterans, with O’Briant pointing out that without the sacrifices of the Americans who fought in the Korean War, such as these gentlemen, she may never had the opportunity to come to the United States.
Before talking with the two Korean War veterans, her knowledge of the war was only from books and visiting the Korean DMZ when she was in middle school. She noted that the DMZ is scary and she could still feel the war there.
“I am thankful for the support of the Americans and U.N during the war,” Oh said.
“The US sent soldiers to Korea to help us. So much sacrifice for one nation to stand with another. These men are the living evidence of the sacrifice.”
Pearson and Taylor asked many questions of Oh about her country and talked about the time they spent fighting in the country.
Oh’s visit may not be her only one, as she is looking at a possible return to the United States to receive her Master’s Degree.