Education Exchange: Korea to Kennesaw to Korea

From left, Da hey Jeong, Sandra Bryan, Shatia Blanton, Jee Hyon Lee, Yukyung Kang and Belen Ledezma

A Jan. 16 reception hosted by the Bagwell College of Education for a visiting professor and two student teachers from Seoul Women’s University turned into a bit of a lovefest, powerfully demonstrating the value of educational exchange.

The Korean visitors repeatedly declared their appreciation for experiences in education classes at Kennesaw State and at Cherokee County’s River Ridge High School, where they will spend a month in the classroom.

“Every time I come here, it makes me [feel] beautiful,” Jee Hyon Lee, a professor of education at Seoul Women’s University said during her fourth visit to the campus.  Accompanying her are teacher education students Da hye Jeong and Yukyung Kang, who both expressed a desire to return to Kennesaw State as an exchange and graduate student, respectively. “These are precious moments for me and my students, and we hope the connection can be stronger so our students can become globalized leaders.”

In turn, a half dozen Kennesaw State students who have visited Korea — during summer study abroad programs or through a program that sends students to teach in elementary schools in Seoul’s Seongdong-gu province — could not say enough about their experience of the country’s culture and hospitality.

Shatia Blanton, who was among five Kennesaw State students participating in the summer 2013 Teaching English in Korea program, hopes to return to teach English for a year after she graduates in December 2014 with a degree in early childhood education. “I feel so much more culturally aware, and my eyes are open to so much more and to many different things,” she said. 

Belen Ledezema, who went to Seongdong-gu through the Bagwell program two years ago, also longs to return.  “I’ve been wanting to go back ever since I left,” she said.

After doing a summer study abroad at Seoul Women’s University, Vincent Brown is applying to teach English in Korea during summer 2014. “I am very excited to go back,” he said, after describing his goals in Korean. 

“I was blown away by Korean culture … The people were so wonderful and took such good care of us,” said Emily Poolos, who also went to Seongdong-gu during summer 2013.

Professor Jee Hyon Lee and the student teachers will remain in Kennesaw through January under a partnership agreement between Kennesaw State and Seoul Women’s University. They are visiting classrooms and observing teaching methods while on campus.  At River Ridge High School, Da hye Jeong, an educational psychology major who hopes to become a global teacher, is observing to determine “how self efficacy, motivation to learn and collective intelligence can be combined in the classroom.”  Yukyung Kang, an arts and crafts major, is “observing, coaching and teaching” in a ceramics classroom.

The KSU/SWU partnership also benefits Kennesaw State students who participate in the Teach in Korea program in Seongdong-gu elementary schools, an initiative that grew from a Cobb County sister-city relationship, said Sandra Bryan, director of Bagwell College’s global engagement and lecturer of elementary education.  She explained that Jee Hyon Lee visits the schools where Kennesaw State students teach to observe and provide guidance and support. 

“We’re so pleased to have Jee Hyon and her students visit us,” said Bryan.  “We always look forward to renewing our partnership and friendship with her and Seoul Women’s University.”

-- Sabbaye McGriff