This winter, three HWS students received the Special Scholarship from the Council on International Educational Exchange and the Korea Foundation, which allowed them to travel to South Korea for an intensive immersion trip during spring break.
For 10 days this March, Innis Baah ’10, Chelsea Gannon ’13 and Emma Kelly ’10 traveled in and around Seoul with 75 students from colleges and universities across America.
For Gannon, who has had a lifelong interest in Asia, “the opportunity to visit Korea seemed like the perfect thing for me.”
Kelly, on the other hand, had little knowledge of Asian culture until the trip to Korea broadened her outlook.
“I’m a sociology major with political science and international relations minors, which helped me understand what I was seeing in Korea,” she explains. “I love seeing other cultures. It was a different perspective for each of us but absolutely worthwhile.”
During the trip, students attended lectures at Yonsei University, traveled to the demilitarized zone along the North Korea-South Korea border and were exposed to various Korean customs, from bowing 45 degrees in greeting to exchanging money with two hands as a sign of respect, and the perspectives of the people they met while traveling.
Kelly recalls discussing the split between North and South Korea. “We talked with many university students who thought unification was a great idea,” she says. “But there are polarized opinions; just as many students don’t want Korea to unify. To think of a country divided and how you reconcile that is very difficult.”
With an academically and culturally focused view of the region, “exploring the country through cultural lectures, tours, excursions, and a home stay with a Korean family,” as Baah says. “It was the experience of a lifetime.”
“The Korea Foundation was really great to us, providing us with housing, food, and even gifts for us at lectures,” Gannon says. “It was so much more than we expected. Their generosity just kept coming.”
As for the trip as a learning opportunity, Baah says it was great – particularly having gone into it with only a few expectations.
“If you go in with incredibly high expectations and they aren’t met, you’re disappointed,” Baah says. “I was just looking to learn something new about culture, about history, about people.”
Kelly has participated in America Reads and is currently working on her Honors project, which discusses how the military uses social science research. She is considering a career in political campaigning.
Gannon intends to major in Asian Languages and Cultures major and is considering a Spanish or Classics minor. She is a member of Asian Student Union, Karate Club, fencing club, and Native American Student Association. Gannon has taken courses on Modern Japan, Ancient Chinese culture, and Japanese language.
An economics major, Baah is president of Sankofa, the HWS Black Student Union, and president of the Hobart senior class.