Nine Korean students from Chinju National University of Education in Jinju, S. Korea, are visiting the U.S. during January and February to study at The University of Findlay.
“This is a great experience for pre-service teachers,” said Chris Sippel, coordinator of international education. “Whether in the U.S. or abroad, teachers need to be prepared for the diversity in their classrooms and to know how to develop their students for an interconnected world.”
According to Sippel, the classroom can be intimidating for students from different language or cultural backgrounds. He believes students should experience this firsthand as part of their training before they become teachers.
The University of Findlay’s College of Education works with Korea’s Chinju National University of Education. College of Education students have an email correspondence with students of Chinju National prior to their arrival on campus. This online friendship helps the Korean students feel more welcome when they visit the U.S.
“Already sharing information with a [UF] student made me more relaxed and helped me adapt to life here,” says Seong-Min Hong, a Korean student studying at the University.
One UF student, Tory Shepard, even bought her pen pal an outfit for a black tie affair on campus. Her pen pal, Eun-Chong Kim, hopes to return the favor.
“I hope Tory can visit my home in Korea some day,” says Kim.
The Korean students are very involved during their stay at UF. Other than a trip to Chicago and New York City, the students work with the Findlay community and local school districts.
“When you study abroad, it really gives you a great perspective on your own culture and ignites a fire to learn more,” said Sippel.
The Korean students have the opportunity to work at Jacobs Primary, Van Buren Elementary and Kenton Middle schools. The Korean group gets to observe the teachers as assistants. Near the end of their stay, they teach the elementary students lessons about the Korean language, culture, songs and games.
Sippel believes there is another career-oriented purpose of the Korean students working at local American schools.
“The beauty of these relationships is that the possibilities are endless,” says Sippel. “These students are creating their own international network of colleagues.”
For the Korean students, this opportunity is more than just a chance to network. The priority of the educational system in Korea is much different than in the U.S.
“The U.S. [government] invests a lot of money into the schools and education,” says Hong. “Because Korea is a divided nation, the government spends a lot of the money on defense instead of the schools.”
This opportunity is a chance to improve the classroom setting in their home country. Kim and Hong both agree the opportunity to observe American classrooms taught them many things.
“In Korea, teachers say what to do and everyone does the same things at the same time,” says Kim. “Here, there can be four or five things happening at once. I really want to adopt that kind of method in Korea.”
By Evan Rowland