Study abroad program introduces UNC Asheville students to South Korea

By Ashley Elder, News Staff Writer
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Eastern culture came to life for a small group of students, including senior Marley Moreno, who studied abroad in Daejeon, South Korea this summer.
Daejeon is the fifth-largest metropolis in South Korea and is considered the Silicon Valley of Korea. According to Tiece Ruffin, assistant professor for the department of education and Diversity Outreach coordinator, Samsung and LG headquarters are located there, along with various private and public research institutes.
When not attending lectures on Korean culture and language at Hannam University, Moreno and her group took field trips to Seoul, the Demilitarized Zone and even a Hyundai car plant.
Moreno, an art student with a K-12 teaching license, said two days of hearing people speak Korean was tough, but fun to listen to.
“Korea was so obnoxiously safe,” she said. “I could leave my bag places.”
Moreno taught a fifth-grade class about American culture through a lesson about football. She showed the students videos of players tackling each other and led a game of Simon Says to demonstrate juking, where players quickly hustle back and forth as fast as they can. She said 30 white sneakers going back and forth from side to side was the highlight of her trip.
“Everyone is the same everywhere, just different on the surface,” Moreno said.
Moreno said she has every intention of going back to Korea. She said her re-entry into the U.S. went much more smoothly than her first time abroad in Ghana two years ago.
Though it was not all sunshine and happiness, she said she handled it very well.
“If you have the opportunity, just do it,” she said. “It’s so important.”
She said she grew a lot as a person when she ended her trip with a five-day stint in Japan, visiting Tokyo and Kyoto on her own.
“I realized that I am a brave and independent lady,” she said.
Moreno said the education system in Korea made her want to take her schooling more seriously this year.
“This trip got me excited about teaching again,” she said.
Moreno left the U.S. without a concept for her senior show. She said the experience she had in Korea and Japan lit a fire and after returning she now has a clear direction.
“My future was dim, I had no motivation, and now I do,” Moreno said.
Ruffin led the trip, which gave students the opportunity to earn six credits and teach English to Korean students at Seowon Elementary School.
“Hannam University’s Korean Summer Studies program and Teaching Practicum is phenomenal,” Ruffin said.
Prior to teaching, Hannam University provides a tour of the elementary school, meeting with English education faculty, and reviewing curriculum materials and methods for teaching English in the Korean context.
Ruffin said participation in this program provided students with an opportunity to develop and hone their critical thinking skills, their abilities to communicate clearly, and to develop cultural and global competency.
This type of program aligns with several aspects of the mission, and student learning outcomes, of UNCA, she said, specifically students developing and living their own values while respecting the views and beliefs of others.
Study Abroad Director Bonnie Parker receives feedback on the trips students take throughout the year.
“Having an experience in a classroom in another country is really special,” Parker said.
She said being in a different country can bring the classroom to a different level.
“Students who go abroad don’t realize that coming back is harder a lot of times than actually leaving their own culture,” she said, “which can be really significant because they change in so many ways.”
She said it is very important for students to have avenues to process their experiences.
“I think it really promotes and encourages a lot of personal growth,” she said. “It can increase your self confidence and self reliance and know that you can solve issues of not understanding or travel issues getting around.”
Parker said beyond graduation, employers are understanding the importance of studying abroad.
“There are a lot of benefits study abroad gives, like to think outside the box, think critically, solve problems, be put out of their comfort zones and be successful,” she said.