Korean businessman Sangman Noh chooses Lake Oswego as his home base for learning the English language along with his family
Sangman Noh decided to take bold action to change the course of his life, and Lake Oswego is where he chose to do it.
Noh and his entire family - wife, Sunghee, son, Wonjin, daughter, Hyowon - have come here to learn English and thus greatly expand the horizons of his business career back in Seoul, Korea.
Maybe Noh is a bit difficult to understand now, but he won't be in two years. Meanwhile, the Noh family is having a rich experience in the Great Northwest. The parents aren't working in Oregon - she is taking a break from being a school teacher while he is taking college classes.
Noh said he would not have made it here without the kindness of neighbors.
'They were so helpful in getting us accustomed to the new environment,' Noh said. 'We so appreciate their help. We could not forget their kindness.'
In fact, the Nohs have become regulars at the clubhouse at Oswego Pointe Apartments. Yes, there was a bit of a culture tremor when they showed up for the first time last August, but Noh's personality made up for any deficiencies he had in English.
'They are a darling, beautiful family,' said neighbor Mary Spence. 'Mr. Noh was speaking so poorly, but he was trying so hard. He really impressed me. His wife is a darling, and his children you just can't believe, they are so polite and well mannered.
'His little girl made me a Christmas card with letters like candy canes. It said, 'Thank you for talking to my mommy.' Would any American kid do that?'
The Noh family members are just the kind of people you want to help. Oswego Pointe residents have pitched in to help the family adjust to their new surroundings. Rodney and Patricia Iverson helped them get a car. Toni Beiser helped Hyowon give a speech in her class and Wonjin to learn American history. Spence and Margie Stockwell took them to see Zoo Lights, while Carol Fay got them attending Lake Oswego Presbyterian Church.
The Nohs have learned about 'the culture of potlucks,' the size of Alaska, blueberries, apples, sturgeon, salmon and the Lake Oswego Farmers Market, which completely dazzled them.
But it all started with Noh's gutsy decision. He wanted his family to have a better life, and he felt the way for that to happen was for all of them to learn English.
'I worked in financial fields for 12 years in Korea. I was so proud of my work,' Noh said. 'However, I felt that I needed to improve my English skill. Furthermore, I want my children to learn English too.
'Actually, it was not an easy decision for such a big challenge as coming to the U.S. with my whole family. We had considered it for a long time and we hesitated to make the final decision. But I believed that this opportunity would help my family unify and have a great experience.
'In Korea there are a lot of foreign companies in this recent global market. It is strongly required to have good English skills in the financial field.'
Noh did it all on his own too. He is not participating in any program, and he quit his job in order to come to the U.S., specifically Lake Oswego. He doesn't know if there will be a job awaiting him when he returns.
Why Lake Oswego? Noh had some good reasons. Number one is that he wanted to take the English program at Portland Community College, which has its main Sylvania campus on the edge of Lake Oswego - a city he learned about when checking into PCC. Then there is the high quality lifestyle of this city.
'I searched for the best school for my children, and I realized that Hallinan Elementary School is one of the best schools in Oregon,' Noh said. 'Also, I recognize that Lake Oswego is a safe and beautiful place.'
At Hallinan, Wonjin, 11, is a fifth-grader; Hyowon, 9, is a third-grader.
So, the Noh family has come to experience the joy of potlucks, the Oregon Zoo and so much more. There have been a few problems, like Noh flunking his first driver's test because he did not know English, explaining he wanted to go to Ikea furniture store and confusion about just when the school bus would arrive.
Still, the Nohs have passed the 'Coming to America' challenge with flying colors - with courage, curiosity and intelligence.
While the Noh family has received a lot, they have also given. And they've impressed their new friends in Lake Oswego.
'I keep thinking, 'What would it be like for us to go to Korea?'' Spence said. 'They have a remarkable story and they're a delightful family.'