Looking back at my five weeks of classes, I realized I couldn¡¯t have asked for a more perfect program. Through the skillful use of learning tools such as games, songs, cards, and paired activities, the 4-hour language-focused classes of speaking, reading, listening, and writing were always engaging and never once seemed too long. Shortly after the first week of classes, our class had mastered Hangul, the phonetic Korean alphabet. As we hunted down places for lunch after classes, we would often practice Hangul by reading aloud store and street signs that we passed by. The small class size (I had 10 classmates) allowed the teachers to give personalized attention to each student and helped build a tight-knit classroom environment. From learning Hangul to vocabulary to grammar, all the components of our lessons were weaved together in such a logical manner that it was clear the curriculum has been tried, tested, and from my personal experience – highly successful.
The 2-hour culture-based afternoon classes are unique to the Korean Immersion Program. Together with our classmates and teacher, we conducted many fieldwork activities to learn about Korea¡¯s history, culture, and everyday living. For example, after spending class time learning about Korean cuisines, proper eating etiquette, and how to order food, we went out to eat at a restaurant for class the next day to apply our new knowledge. To learn about Korea¡¯s history and traditional culture, we visited museums and palaces, learned taekwondo, played samullori (Korean traditional musical instruments), and tried on hanboks (traditional Korean clothing). To experience modern everyday life, we window-shopped at a supermarket, visited the KBS broadcasting station to watch idol performances, went to sing at a noraebang (Korean karaoke room), and learned to cook samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup), kimbap, and pajeon.
Ultimately, what made the Sogang Korean Immersion Program so special were undoubtedly the truly exceptional teachers. For the morning classes, we had one teacher for speaking and another teacher for reading, listening, and writing. For the afternoon classes, we also had two different teachers. With different and yet equally effective teaching styles, our teachers genuinely cared about us as both students and people. For example, having found that my 30-year old classmate would soon be meeting with his Korean girlfriend¡¯s parents for the first time, my teacher quickly taught him some formal Korean phrases that would be appropriate for his situation. To have four outstanding, dedicated, and enthusiastic teachers spoke volumes for the care with which the program must have selected its staff and I must thank ÀÌ ¼±»ý´Ô, ±è ¼±»ý´Ô, ÀÓ ¼±»ý´Ô, and our other ÀÌ ¼±»ý´Ô for their teachings.
Situated in Sinchon, the Sogang campus is in the midst of a young, vibrant college town with a ton of restaurants, shops, and anything you would need. With the subway station just a short walk away, Gonzaga Hall, the newly-built dormitory I stayed at in Sogang, is conveniently located for exploring the city with fellow students and classmates. Each student attending SISC was offered to be paired up with a buddy – a regular Sogang University student – and students in the Korean Immersion Program were also each paired up with a language exchange buddy. Together with our Korean buddies, we never lacked for things to do as we went sightseeing and shopped around Seoul, feasted on Korean cuisines like naengmyeon and samgyeopsal, sang at noraebang, and since this was the year of a FIFA World Cup, cheered on the South Korean soccer team with thousands of Koreans on a city street specifically blocked off for the occasion.
Thanks to the Korea Institute, I was finally able to fulfill my dream of studying Korean and experiencing firsthand a culture that I have so long admired. It was a truly unforgettable and incredible summer in every way. THANK YOU!!!
- Anissa Mak, '13