More than half of high school graduates attend college within 100 miles of their hometown, while 72 percent stay in-state, according to the Washington Post.

Two Waxahachie Global High seniors are about to knock that statistic as they prepare to enroll in Konkuk University in South Korea.

Kristina Garcia, 18, and Annie Anderson, 17, have always had a fascination with various cultures and realized they had the same interests in the K-pop band BTS, who most recently performed at the 2019 Billboard Music Awards.

The students of different backgrounds were captivated by the Korean culture, morals, and values and aspired to continue their education overseas. In the past year, the students have taught themselves to read, write and speak Korean, but are not quite fluent just yet.

"I'm looking forward to learning the language fully, and families take me in at least for traditional Korean dinners and all the traditional activities there," Garica, a first-generation college student, said.

Garcia noted dinner is usually served sitting down in Korea and it is common to share the meal with everyone at the table. Respect toward elders is also an essential tradition in Korean culture. Anderson said everyone at the dinner table has to wait to eat until the oldest person at the table picks up their chopsticks.

Konkuk University is a private college located in Seoul, the capital of South Korea, which has a population of over 9.7 million.

The university has 2,500 international students from 67 countries, which encompasses 14 percent of the student population, according to topuniversities.com. The university is also ranked top 17th in South Korea and 94th in Asian universities.

Anderson, who is mixed with Scottish and German, admitted being an Aggie fan her entire life, but was not interested in the American college stigma of parties and felt the Korean lifestyle would best suit her.

"I tried compromising with him (dad) at first and said I'd go to ENMU and do a study abroad like once every other semester and my heart didn't really agree with that," Anderson explained. "The only thing I really felt comfortable with is going to college in South Korea."

Anderson has already set aside nine years of her life to studying language, veterinary science and marine biology. She started swimming at 18 months old and has always had an interest with sea creatures and noted she could even mimic the dolphin sound. Her ultimate dream job is to work as a veterinarian for ocean life.

Garcia, on the other hand, expects to be inspired by the Korean culture to establish her own beauty company.

"In Korea, there is a lot of beauty and skincare specifically," Garcia shared. "I want to really create a business where I can do a variety of skincare products, create my own lash line with a more natural look versus the western look. Korean is a really bare, natural look."

Garcia plans to eventually give back to the homeless community with hygiene packages. This idea stems from her parent's lifestyle in Mexico as resources were minimal. Her Hispanic heritage has also played a significant role in her decision to leave home.

"That is the biggest risk that I have to be willing to make if I really want to experience what I've always wanted to," Garcia elaborated. "It's hard leaving your family, especially as a Hispanic girl going into a foreign country where your parents will not be at… Safety is what they are really worried about."

As Anderson shared with her peers about her education in South Korea, she regularly dismisses misconceptions about the country.

"I've heard a lot of people say, 'Oh, is that going to transfer to the U.S.?' 'Oh, are you going to get kidnapped.' 'Is Kim Jung-un going to bomb you?' I think people just think so negative about South Korea and there are so many good things about them," Anderson explained. "It kind of bothers me, but I'm okay."

"I'm going to prove them wrong," she added with confidence.

The change will not bother her, and, in fact, is what she is looking forward to most.

The two students will have all of their housing solidified over the summer and will leave around the last week in August.

People can help these young ladies achieve their dreams: http://bit.ly/2VZDXPd

- - - - - - 

Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450