Teaching Korean Studies Through Teleconferencing

Ms. Anne with Prof, Kim

By Anne Achieng

Ehwa Woman’s University in Seoul, Korea and the University of Nairobi in Nairobi Kenya, are working together to promote knowledge on Korean culture. For the last two years, students at The University of Nairobi have had lectures from S. Korea through teleconferencing. In 2016, from May to August, the students learned Political Economy of Korean Development through a Lecturer from Ehwa University, Department of Political Science. In 2017, students were taught  Korean Social Political Philosophy by a lecturer from Sookmyung Woman’s University.

The mission and purpose of this program is to improve relations between Kenya and South Korea. More to it is to improve the knowledge about Korea. The courses are meant to expose students to other dynamics of Korea such as economy, literature, culture and other relevant Korean matters. The program runs for 11 weeks which is equivalent to 1 semester. The best performing student gets a chance to visit Korea for 1 month.

This year, the UoN students are thrilled about the program and have enrolled in large numbers. Julius Macharia and Bhavisha Patel, students from the 2017 class, say it is always an interesting experience learning about Korea through online. They also applauded the lecturers for their outstanding teaching.

The 2018 class is set to study Korean Economic Development by Pof. Kim Sei-Wan from Ehwa Woman’s University. He flew to Kenya for his first lecture. We caught up with him for a short interview. The class will run from January to April.

Bridge: Please tell us about yourself

Prof. Kim:  I am an Economics lecturer at Ehwa Women’s University in Seoul. I got my degree in the United States. I’ve also taught at California State University, Department of economics.

Bridge: Is this your first time in Africa? How do you find Kenya?

Prof. Kim: Yes, this is my first time in Africa. Kenya is a land of so much economic opportunities. I am here to lecture students and I am looking forward to a good time.

Bridge: For how long have you been doing the online class, is this your first time? Have you ever done it with other universities in other countries?

Prof. Kim: I have done online teaching for some time now; I have a lot of experience in this area. I’ve done online classes with the University of Hong Kong in Hong Kong, Bonn University in Germany, among others. I have years of experience in online teaching.

Bridge: What do you plan to achieve with the class of 2018?

Prof. Kim: I want the students to learn about Korea’s economic growth. Korea was poor, especially after the war but now 50 years later, it has grown to richness, currently being the world’s 11th largest economy. In this way, students can learn how Kenya can develop into a super power.

Bridge: From your observation of previous classes, how has this program been of benefit to those universities and the students?

Prof. Kim: The program has boosted knowledge about Korea and Korean economic society. This has led to rapid economic growth and a good relationship between countries.

Bridge: What advice do you have for students who’ll be taking the class?

Prof. Kim: I would like the students to read more about Korean history, culture and economy, outside what is taught in class. They can also read about the popular K-Pop.

Bridge: What’s your future expectation of this program?

Prof. Kim: I expect it to be given more chances to develop, reaching out to more countries in Africa and Asia. This will build a good relationship between countries and therefore boost economic growth.

Prof Kim at UoN

Photos: Joshua Nyantika

Summer School in S.Korea

From the 26th of July to the 21st of August 2017, Virginia Chege attended summer school at Sookmyung Women’s University in Seoul. She narrates her thrilling encounter.

South Korea, Seoul in particular, proved to be all and more than I thought it would be. I can honestly say it was the best time of my life. I attended a summer school program at Sookmyung Women’s University courtesy of Korea Foundation. It was a program aimed at teaching students from all over the world Korean language and Korean culture. Of all the twenty eight students who attended the program, two were from Africa; a lady from Senegal and I. This in a way caused me to stand out. Korean people were   fascinated by my hair, which technically was not mine given that I had plaited my head with braids. It was funny, a tad ironic, how excited they were when touching my hair.

I took two classes; Korean language and Korean Arts/Crafts. Since almost all the students were knew to the language, the lecturer resorted to teaching us by way of song and games. It was lots of fun but felt a bit like kindergarten. The Korean Arts/Crafts class stirred the creativity in me. I got round to making several jewelry pieces; from bracelets, rings, pendants to more others. I also learnt various threading techniques and metal cutting.

Throughout my stay, I enjoyed authentic Korean cuisine; samgyeopsal, bulgogi, tteokboki, kimchi, japchae, kimbab, bibimpap and mandu just to name but a few. Korean food was very spicy but I made do. I also tried many coffee drinks inspired by the serious coffee drinking culture in that country. The level of technology in Korea made life so convenient. All the systems ran very efficiently, from the transport system to the internet speeds. Using the subway to move from one place to another proved easy.

Korean people were  kind and willing to offer help, more so to foreigners. There is no limit to the number of fascinating places one can visit in Seoul. For a start, visiting Gyeongbokgung Palace was a great experience. The sense of history and cultural heritage   it hoisted  was wonderful. It is amazing how well  all the buildings within the palace have  been  kept all over the years. At the DMZ zone I  viewed North Korea from a distance. It was really nice to relive history going down the tunnel dug by the North Korean soldiers in an invasion strategy to South Korea. Later, we  experienced performing arts at the Nanta Performance at Myeongdong . Nanta is a theater performance where performers  use food as their props. Viewing various beautiful art pieces was a good way to unwind after class. We did this at the MMCA Art Gallery and the Seoul National Museum.

Chilling along the banks of Han River enjoying chicken (and beer for those who drank), known as ‘Chimaek’ was very relaxing. Of all the places, Lotte World Adventures was the best  I  visited. All the roller coaster rides, speed trains, air balloons and candy did the trick. If I could relive all those moments with all the amazing friends I made, I definitely would.

 

 

Korean Studies at the University of Nairobi

From the year 2010, the Academy of Korean Studies (AKS) supported a networking project that was run by the Faculty of Arts in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHSS) at the University of Nairobi (UoN). Three years later, it gave way to the establishment of Korean Studies at UoN. Housed in the Department of Linguistics and Languages, Korean Studies admitted its first students in September 2013.

This course majorly entails teaching Korean language, literature, culture, philosophy, economics and history. There are two programmes on offer: a Certificate in Korean Language, Literature and Culture; and a Bachelor of Arts in Korean Studies. Most of the core courses are taught by Prof. Yuhjin Park, the Korea Foundation (KF) Visiting Professor to UoN. The certificate course covers only eight months and admits students from any field of study. It therefore has a huge student enrollment. There have been four classes so far, and the numbers have steadily been going up.

On the other hand, the BA course covers four academic years. In each of the eight semesters, students take at least two core units on Korean Studies. The first cohort of students will graduate on December 15, 2017. They will be the first to graduate with a BA in Korean Studies from an African University. The numbers admitted to the BA course have also been rising with time, as Korean Studies gains popularity each day.

This popularity is in part the result of the many extracurricular activities students of Korean Studies take part in. There exists a vibrant students association, the Korean Studies Students Association (KSSA). Students taking any programme in Korean Studies can register as members of KSSA. The association is student led, but has the KF Visiting Professor as the patron. KSSA members take part in at least one activity in a semester.

The Korean Studies students

From July through December 2016, the association had Korea in Our Village, an activity funded by the AKS. During this six month’s project, Korean Studies students interacted with the Korean community in Kenya, shared Korean language and culture experiences with pupils and students of different institutions in Nairobi, and learned a thing or two by visiting Korean companies and institutions in Nairobi and Limuru. Experiences from Korea in Our Village are published on a YouTube channel (Korea in Our Village) and on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Koreainourvillage/.

Korea Quarterly Magazine is another KSSA project as members collect news on matters relating to Kenya and Korea. This magazine will run for at least one year, and is also funded by AKS. Such activities as this have solidly improved the state of Korean Studies in the university. They have also become avenues of marketing Korean Studies at UoN both to students and to the public community. As students like to study courses that are fun as well as promising, Korean Studies continues to become an option every year.

The main stakeholders of Korean Studies at the University of Nairobi are AKS, KF, and the Korean Embassy in Kenya. While AKS kick started the project, KF provides a Korean Language teacher among other academic support. The Korean Embassy, on the other hand, has always supported both academic and extracurricular activities in Korean Studies at the university. There have been three speech competitions and one Quiz on Korea, all organised and closely supported by the Korean Embassy in Kenya. Winners of these competitions walked away with huge prizes, including chances to visit Korea.

In recent times, a Korea Corner has been established at UoN. This is a Korean culture experience room prepared by the Embassy. It has provided the perfect place for other students and staff of the university to come in contact with Korean culture, hence boosting the image of Korean Studies. We have also had the support of Korean Companies in Kenya, like Samsung and LG which have opened up chances for students to work and learn more about Korea. KOICA has also given students a chance to go to Korea for a period of up to four months, in which they engage in an intense language programme.

 

Student Life In Seoul

We meet Emilly Achieng, A computer Engineering Student at Gamchon University, Seoul.

When did you begin your studies in Korea?

I came to Korea about two years ago. And because I had studied Korean Language in Kenya and did the Proficiency test, I straight away began my major.

What do you love most about Seoul?

Seoul is one of those places that offers a global environment to learn and grow. It has diverse people from all walks of life and meeting them or just being around them is a great chance to develop interesting perspectives in life. And of course there are many amazing places to tour. It is rich in culture and history. And I won’t forget the internet speed that is second to none.

What are some of the culture shocks you encountered upon landing in Korea?

I used to have that habit of trying any food I am presented with, untill one time we were on a table, a group of us enjoying a meal. And then afterwards, one just inquired if we knew what we had eaten? We were all like, ’no please!.’ We didn’t want to know anything beyond the delicacy that we had just eaten! Let me just say, the answer was not good.

How do you relate with other Kenyans in Korea? Are you close?

Yes, I have  quite a number of friends that we began the journey with in Nairobi and still now our friendship holds here. Also, I have met quite a number in Korea and we keep in touch always. I enjoy writing. I was an active contributor to the KCK Jambo Kenya Magazine column when the magazine was still up and running. So yes, I do relate in many ways with Kenyans in Korea.

What are some of the challenges that you’ve encountered studying in Korea?

All through daily encounters with something new and strange that requires time to adapt. Also, being asked honest questions that are not-so-pleasant at times.

What are some of the interesting aspects?

A baby is said to be one year old when born here. I find it interesting.

What advice do you have for those who want to study in Korea?

Everyone’s experience is different. Mine was never easy. I tried quite a number of schools before landing on one. That took a lot of time. Your experience could be different from mine. But once you make that grand decision, nothing should ever stop you. Never walk back.

Korean By Birth But Kenyan At Heart

 

Jauquelyne Kosgei speaks to Prof. Yuhjin Park, the Korean Studies Professor at the University of Nairobi.

The Bridge: For how long have you been in Kenya?

Prof. Park: I have been in Kenya for exactly four years; I arrived at the end of August 2013. I started teaching at UoN soon after.

The Bridge: Having been in Kenya for four years, what can you say of your initial feeling and impression compared to your experiences over time?

Prof. Park: Not much has changed, really. At first, I was surprised to find a very blue sky and huge birds flying in the air. These are not things you will usually see in Korea, and I was very fascinated. Until now, I still find Kenya’s natural environment and weather very captivating.

The Bridge: Please tell us about your academic journey.

Prof. Park: I enrolled for my BA degree in Ewha Womans University in 2000. I did not graduate until 2006 though, as I spent one semester visiting Beijing, China, and a whole academic year focusing on extracurricular activities. I majored in Chinese Language and Literature, and minored in Korean Language and Literature and also in Asian Studies. For three years after my BA, I worked in Korean Broadcasting Station (KBS) as an assistant writer. I then went to Shanghai, China, where I taught Korean Literature to Koreans studying there. I then returned to my alma mater where I did my Master of Education between 2010 and 2012. Soon after, I applied for the post of KF Visiting Professor, and I was fortunate to be hired. And here I am.

The Bridge:  So, was teaching always your dream career? If not, when did you consider being a teacher?

Prof. Park: Actually, I wanted to be a writer when I was in high school. I always loved to read novels and poems. That is why I studied Chinese and Korean literature. In fact, I took more literature units than linguistic ones! However, teaching Korean Literature in Shanghai, I realised I could make a good teacher. I found it easy and fun communicating with students.

The Bridge: Talking of which, we talked to some of your students. All of them say you are an excellent teacher. What do you think you do that would make them see you so?

Prof. Park: Thank you! I think that is because I am friends with them besides being just a teacher. I have made them very comfortable with me, and I always have time to talk about their family, relationships, and sometimes their dreams and aspirations. That may be the reason.

The Bridge: What is the one thing your students do not know about you?

Prof. Park: Uh, nothing! I think my students know everything about me.

The Bridge: What is one day like for a teacher?

Prof. Park: In my case, I don’t go to school every day, but I would prepare handouts for my students, have a class for 2-3 hours, give a make-up class for those who need it, and sometimes have coffee or pizza with my students. For now, I am also writing a paper for an upcoming conference in Egypt.

The Bridge: What is the one expectation you have of (your) students?

Prof. Park: I expect them to study extra even without homework assigned to them. They are not primary or high school kids anymore, and should study independently. Also, as a language teacher, I don’t expect them to rely on Google Translate as a tutor, especially for basic expressions we have learned in class. Trust me, Google Translate can sometimes generate weird sentences, some of which I have received.

The Bridge: Having said that, what is the best thing about your students?

Prof. Park: Generally, I find my students very enthusiastic about Korean language and Korea in general. They are always excited and actually show up for Korean events like the Korean Film Festival, the Korean Food Festival, and the Korean National Foundation Day. They put so much energy into making these occasions a success, and I am happy about that.

The Bridge: It is obvious that you have blended into the Kenyan culture now, but what is the most shocking thing you ever observed in Kenya?

Prof. Park: I have gone to a few clubs here in Kenya, and I am still shocked about the dance styles here. Put simply, there is too much hip movement in Kenyan dance.

The Bridge: What hobbies have you adopted in Kenya?

Prof. Park: These aren’t new hobbies, really, but I love reading comic books and playing the violin. I also like playing mobile games, with Clash of Clans as my current favourite. I am actually the leader of my clan at the moment. I also love going on holiday sometimes, with Mombasa and Zanzibar being the best destinations to experience the Indian Ocean, and Maasai Mara the best reserve to observe the animal species.

The Bridge: What are your plans for the future?

Prof. Park: I plan to keep teaching at UoN for a few more years, which tells you that I am happy to be here. I am currently developing my doctoral thesis to be presented at UoN.

 

Tales From Graduate School

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Education

South Korea’s distinctive blend of age-old traditions and modernity  makes it a vibrant choice for those wishing to study abroad. The country hosts a number of internationally renowned universities that offer competitive, high quality and well respected education. Young people from developing countries have opted to study there. Many have enrolled, and continue to enroll for graduate studies, thanks to the availability of foreign scholarships. Kenyans have not been left behind. Their enrollment  has steadily been rising. The bridge sought to find out how it is to study and live in S. Korea from  some of these Kenyans. We reached out to four graduate students from KyungPook National  University, Daegu.

 Mutuku Stella Musyawa:

Master of Science (Msc) in Economics

Stella Upon her graduation in July 2017

The  interest of my research concentrates on development economics, focusing on newly industrialized and developing countries. Living outside the comfort of my country’s family and culture has shaped my life, and made me more independent and responsible. This environment has exposed me to people from across the globe, an experience that has shaped my attitude and knowledge on diverse cultures the world over.

Full of passion for studying and the desire for a new experience beyond, was and has remained my motivation for my 3 year study and stay in South Korea. Well, it has been challenging taking all my courses in Korean language but the support of my professors, fellow students, well-equipped resource centers and the dedicated effort  enabled me to overcome the barriers. As a Korean Government Scholarship Program (KGSP) beneficiary, I had to study Korean language for one year in Busan. Although the pressure from school work would get overwhelming, the experience was way amazing. School is well balanced with frequent field trips that are organized by the language institute. Moreover, because I attended my language school in Busan, which hosts most of the best recreation facilities in South Korea, I had diverse joints to unwind when school work got overwhelming.

Living outside the environs of one’s home implies starting life afresh and it comes with the fear of the unknown. But the world is full of great people and one is able to meet new people, whom with time become friends and then family. I must admit that that life abroad is not a bed of roses but neither is it back at home and each environment comes with its own challenges. A positive attitude to the unknown life beyond home enables one to cope up with the inevitable challenges.  For example, living beyond one’s continent implies that the diet would be totally different and it is in learning how to appreciate different cultures that one enables one to get out of the comfort of their home country meals.

I would recommend students with a desire to study in South Korea to put effort in learning basic Korean via K-Drama, K-Pop, Apps (KoreanLite) and YouTube tutors. Being conversant with the basic Korean implies that you can easily integrate into their society

2. Bernard Ouma Alunda

Ph. D (Doctoral Degree) Department of Mechanical Engineering

My research area looks at the development of a versatile high-speed and hybrid atomic force microscope (AFM) for structural characterization and dynamic observation of samples at nano-/ pico-scale. I have lived in Korea for more than four (4) years. I heard about Kyungpook National University while taking my Masters degree  at Yeungnam University (2010-2012). As a Ph. D student much is expected of me in terms of research. This calls for massive sacrifice that needs one to stay  in the lab for hours. It is a tad draining but what motivates me the most is the passion and the enthusiasm that I have for what I do and the support from my advisor. He is an amazing  and talented individual who believes that we can ace it. To that effect , the amount of time I spend in the laboratory matters less. I get propelled by achievements that I make periodically. Interestingly, I have resorted to labeling the days I  spend sleepless nights, “nightless sleeps” to carry on the grind and make sure the concepts work no matter what. In fact I call my lab a ‘home’ because I spend lots of time in there.

My lab working hours range between 9 a.m. to roughly 2 a.m. Most of the times I get so much absorbed in my work  that I even lose track of time. The experience and the build up of determination, has transformed me into an individual that can handle any sort of engineering task that I am faced with. Basically, Korea is a ‘palipali’ (in Swahili  ‘chap chap’) society where people believe that things ought to be done fast and efficiently. The culture’s inbred  slogan i.e. ‘fighting’ springs from every corner to encourage you whenever things get tough. I would say that South Korea has achieved a lot in terms of technology (IT and Engineering) and several universities as well as research institutes (www.ust.ac.kr) are equipped with the latest facilities to aid in nurturing cutting-edge technology. It would therefore be an interesting place to do your post-graduate studies.

  1. Joseph N. Tinega

Master of Science, (Msc) Environmental and Energy Engineering

Joseph (7th from the Right) during the launch of Kenya Corner at Kyungpook University

Being humans we tend to slip into comfort quite easily. Traveling/studying in a foreign country is an exemplary way to step out of this comfort zone. I did my fair share of that in 2014 when I came to the Republic of Korea. Since then, the experiences and challenges that I have met  have  helped in rediscovering my passion and capabilities. They have shaped and built my character too. For instance, upon admission for my MSc I came across some part time Korean post graduate students, probably in their 30s, most of who were industrialists.

 

These students introduced me to their industries which resonated well with my studies, summing up the uniqueness of my study experience and its form of practicality. The visits had a lasting impression on me. I was more immersed  and practical into Korea’s industry, which is mostly heavy and chemical, factors  that have been the backbone of their great economic growth. To add, their work ethos and ethic, just-do-it spirit, and emphasis on efficiency by using the latest forms of technology (an example could be the use of robots in the production  systems) was such a great observation. With my life-long dream of being an industrialist, this was  an eye opener. Nevertheless, because the country is not a resource rich nation, their greatest resource has been  the human capital. Industrialists here have a drive or cultural desire to catch up with the West or being at the fore front of innovation/ invention.

Although Korean people have an intense work lifestyle and less social, one could choose to adopt some of the best values, skills and technological know-how, and then replicate them back at home. That could inspire and invigorate our economy. I have learnt, still learning and look forward to displaying the same once I am back in Kenya.

  1. Agumba Dickens Owino

Masters of Science (Msc), Advanced Mechanical Engineering

Studying abroad has become the dream of many students seeking to pursue their academic careers outside the confines of their home. Well, such an opportunity gives one the added advantage of exploring the world. Thus, it provides  a unique way of enriching our education, general knowledge and outlook on life. South Korea is a great option if you would opt to study abroad.

The academic environment here is highly competitive. This keeps you on toes. A wide variety of courses are on offer and therefore an international student  will easily find an area to tap into. To crown it all, the Korean government and the individual universities offer far much better scholarship opportunities for top performing international students. For those seeking to study abroad, I highly recommend the Republic of  Korea.