Class of 2012: She learned her way around new culture

You Min Lee remembers being envious looking at photographs that her older sister took of her new life in America.

The Marysville Pilchuck High School senior was 8 at the time, and living in South Korea. Her sister, Ginny, 10, lived in Marysville with an aunt and uncle and posted photos on her MySpace page of the fun she was having in this country.

Before entering high school, You Min’s parents decided that she would go live in Marysville, too. Her parents thought the move would be better for her education, she said.

“When I came here I realized how hard it actually is to adjust to a new environment and how hard it would have been for (Ginny) because she was younger,” she said.

You Min spent her freshman year as a student at Grace Academy and as a sophomore joined her sister at Marysville Pilchuck High School.

“I think the person who helped me the most is my sister,” she said. “She’s like my best friend.”

You Min knew some English because it was taught in South Korea. There, her English studies were based on reading and writing, but not conversation, she said. Ginny helped her adjust. To help her study, You Min routinely recorded lectures so she could listen to them again at home.

By her junior year, You Min was so skilled she started filling her class schedule with advanced placement courses. In April, she was one of about 250 high school scholars nationwide and one of six students in the state to fly to the Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta, Ga., to accept a $10,000 college scholarship. She plans to attend Wellesley College in Massachusetts and may study mathematics.

She will miss her high school graduation ceremony on Monday. She and her sister traveled to South Korea earlier this month. You Min hasn’t seen her parents since the summer of 2008.

“We’re visiting for the whole summer,” she said. “I’m excited to spend time with them.”

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