Three Bowdoin students spent a week of their spring break learning more about Korean culture and politics through a study tour in South Korea.
Funded by the Korea Foundation and administered by Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE), Jordan Francke “˜13, Beatriz Malibiran “˜14 and Amar Patel “˜13 were among 75 participants from universities and colleges across the country awarded a full scholarship to attend a week-long study tour of South Korea.
“Korea was everything I expected and nothing at all like I thought it would be,” says Malibirian. “On one hand, it did not initially feel like a foreign country, more like a large off-shoot of Korea town in New York City, but the more I explored the area, the more I realized just how different and fascinating the culture, the food and the people were.”
The program, hosted by Yonsei University, is designed for students, who have had little to no previous exposure to Korean culture, to participate in academic lectures, site visits and cultural excursions to better understand the country, its people and its relationship with North Korea.
“The Korea Foundation funded and organized the entire trip, which was an impressive demonstration of their commitment to US-Korea youth relations,” says Patel.
Their busy schedule included Korean language lessons, classes on Korean culture and history, and visits Korean Folk Village, Seoul Tower, the Blue House, and the demilitarized zone (DMZ).
“After learning about the extensive history of North Korea-South Korea relations and the pain that this division has caused, to be actually at the DMZ was one of the most intense experiences of my life,” says Francke.
“If you ask almost any South Korean, they are in favor of reunification and becoming “˜Korea’ again, despite such a violent history. Many South Koreans still have family in North Korea and they don’t even know if they are still alive because they haven’t spoken in decades. However, the younger generations are losing this desire for reunification due to the fact that they never knew Korea as one country and don’t view reunification as passionately.”
While the program provided a general overview of Korean culture, politics and society through organized activities, free time allowed participants to connect with other Korean youth.
Conversations with Korean hosts, Korean peers as well as other program participants allowed the trio from Bowdoin and other U.S. participants to discuss contemporary issues and exchange ideas.
“Through meeting incredibly hospitable South Koreans and talking with engaged scholarship participants from across the country, I’m inspired to become more active in the realm of international affairs,” says Francke.