Determined to win, Cho participated in the 26th Annual Cornhuskers State Game in racquetball. Even with an injured knee, he and Swinney won first place in their division.
Jaekeun Cho, an outgoing and talkative international student, decided to come to Nebraska full time after he already studied animal science for three years at Chun-Ang University in South Korea. “I did not know much about UNK, but I heard about it in 2007, and when I came here on exchange, I liked it so much I decided to study at UNK.”
Now, after two and a half years, he is ready to graduate in December. “I am happy to be almost done. I have been studying without breaks. In the summers I took classes as well, which was tough — every week a test, every day a paper. I run and never stop.”
Cho considers his best college experience getting to know his host family, Greg and Laurie Swinney. “I became part of their family. They always invited me, and they sort of adopted me as their son.”
It was his host father that introduced him to racquetball. “I was bad at racquetball when I started. I never played it in South Korea. I broke a lot of racquets,” he said laughing. In the beginning he was not able to win any game from Swinney, but after a couple of weeks roles turned around. An injured knee did not stop him from participating in the Cornhusker State Games in racquetball. He prepared for it by practicing no less than 17 games a day. And he won. “I never quit. I reached for the top. I want to become a national player in South Korea.”
However, when it comes down to priorities, friendship comes first place. “Sport and studying is a good combination, but friendship is the most important thing in life,” he said.
The 25-year-old Jaekeun Cho will graduate from UNK with a marketing major. Good time management helped him to become a member of the honor fraternity Beta Gamma Sigma. “My GPA is pretty high. I belong to the top seven percent in business school,” he said.
Cho achieved much, but it has not always come easy. “Life for international students can be hard,” he said. “You go to Wal-Mart, but you do not know what to say. You do not understand it. It is a desperate feeling. You feel like you want to stay in your room, speak Korean and hang out with your Korean friends.”
Though that would have been the easiest option, Cho made a pledge to himself to leave his comfort zone. “I pledged I wanted to meet Americans, as learning English was my goal. I also advise other international students to meet with American friends, to socialize and speak English. It is hard, as staying in your comfort zone is easier.” Cho succeeded in leaving his comfort zone. “I do not want to stay in my room,” he said. “I look for being involved in communities such as CSF and Chi Alpha.”
Looking back, Cho thinks he made a good choice to prefer spending time with Americans than with other Koreans. “My English became better. Kearney is the best place to be because there are a lot of Americans here.”
Having experienced the hardships of an international student, Cho will be able to share these with other students as the international Korean officer and recruiter for UNK after his graduation on Dec. 17. “UNK hired me because I am outgoing and never shy. The position did not exist before, but they created it for me.”
Dennis Kenny, the Director of International Education, thinks Cho will suitable for this job as he will be able to draw upon his academic as well as personal experiences of being an international student. "He has a strong academic background and long experience in attending UNK. He knows what Korean students need to make a decision in choosing a college," Kenny said.
Cho plans on finishing his MBA in America. After that, he will return to South Korea, to his two sisters and parents, and find a job in business there. “I’m the big baby, my parents long for me. Learning English was my goal, so once that is achieved, it is ‘Adios America.’ “