Sunday, August 24, 2014

Student Perspectives: Shaelyn Baas, Korean Summer Studies Program

Coming from the piney woods of East Texas, where Friday nights are spent eating out and playing cards, my world was enlarged when I signed up for Hannam University's Korean Summer Studies Program (KSSP).  My hometown, Longview, Texas, has a population of about 80,000.  Hannam University is located in Daejeon, the fifth largest city in South Korea, with a population around 1.5 million people.
I spent four weeks in Korea, taking classes, traveling across the country, and teaching English in an elementary school.  During the program, the KSSP students (about twenty of us) listened to several Hannam faculty members speak on various topics ranging from Korean society to intercultural communication, along with lessons in TaeKwonDo and K-pop dance!

In addition to days in the classroom, much of our time was spent traveling around the country, getting to know the culture and being able to observe first-hand the rich history of Korean tradition.

Visiting the Hanok Village in Jeonju, we acted out a traditional Korean wedding, cooked Bibimpap (Korean dish), and learned traditional Korean drumming.

Seoul War Memorial 
One of the field trips allowed us to visit the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone), the area of land between North and South Korea, as well as the nation's War Memorial in Seoul. Although sobering to see what hardships Korea has come through and the reality of a nation still at war, it's amazing to realize how far the country has come in the past fifty years. It's risen from devastation to rank as one of the world's wealthiest nations. 

During the fourth week, I had the opportunity to teach English in an elementary school, along with with several other American KSSP students. Though slightly intimidated on the first day, most of us, by the end of the week, were learning to speak slowly and clearly (not an easy task for the southerners!), using words that the children could understand. Watching the students laughing over "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" or having fun with charades made me truly enjoy this experience and even begin to consider teaching ESL as a future career option. 

Shaelyn teaching English as a second language
The experiences during KSSP allowed me to meet people from all over the world.  Often, I would find myself to be one of the only white faces in a crowd, broadening my perspective on life and allowing me to experience more of the diversity of the people who God created and loves.  During my four weeks in Korea, I met students from Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Ukraine, Russia, Columbia, Mexico, Taiwan, America, and of course, Korea! I will never forget all the new friends I made during my month-long summer trip, and I cherish the memories of countless adventures we spent together. And I will truly miss the food; Korean barbeque has earned a special place in heart, along with Kimbap, Topokki, Bibimbap, Patbingzu, and yes, even Kimchi. 

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