Tag Archives: foreign languages

The Search for an International Education Experience

Written by: Katherine Ahn 

Study abroad now is a more structured, brief and goal-oriented experience. It has become a must-get college experience, a resume credential and a way to test independence. Specifically, with learning a foreign language, it is clear that study abroad is an impactful way becoming more fluent or having firsthand exposure in a foreign language.

These days study abroad programs implement other subjects on top of the foreign language “requirement” to attract students to experience an overseas education. For example, in the Emory Global Internship Program, for students who are pursuing an economics major, they can intern at a start-up consulting company in Hong Kong and political science majors can intern in a research institute at Singapore. Increasingly, study abroad happens in English. Thus, it all comes down to the individual on the goals that she or he wants to achieve in their education.

For me, I chose to do study abroad in my college experience because not for a new experience. It was about me being a “heritage seeker” by going back to my motherland- South Korea- and honing into my Korean language skills and my future visions in South Korea.

Yonsei University Korean Language Institute.

Yonsei University Campus.

PERSONAL GOAL: SHARPEN MY LANGUAGE SKILLS. If learning a new language or even honing into your language skills is your personal study abroad goal, immersion is key. I did the Yonsei University Korean Language Institute in the summer solely to take Korean language classes and Korean culture classes that entailed of K-pop dance, Korean cooking classes, Korean pottery and Taekwondo classes. I remember before attending classes, I was refreshing my mind with the basics of the Korean language. During my time, I forced myself out of my comfort zone where I made friends with the enrolled Yonsei University students. This is because I wanted to practice the language and as well as be immersed into the culture. Absorbing as much as possible outside of my classes was crucial. With study abroad, you will pick up more than you ever would by taking a foreign language class.

PERSONAL GOAL: RECONNECTING MY HERITAGE. I went to South Korea as my study abroad location because it is where my family is from. Going back to my roots was a whole other complicated narrative that I decided to recreate. I had this intense curiosity about my heritage and a desire to understand not only where my family originated, but also know more about my connection with Korea and what I can do in the future if I ever lived in Korea. While exploring the neighborhoods, shops and touristy places, I was able to decide what Korea meant to me and for my professional future. Getting a taste of what life was like for my family was vital to re-rooting myself.

Study abroad has its own challenges and purposes for each individual. Most importantly, students who have studied abroad show just how committed they are to their education. The very value of going abroad — being uncomfortable— is what makes it hard, but also so exhilarating. As campuses try to have a more global focus, students are seeing the importance of stepping outside of themselves and seeing other cultures and experiencing things not just on what they see on TV. If anything, my study abroad experience did not change who I am, the journey adds a whole other complexity to who I am.

What is the one human ability you are afraid to lose?

Written by: Katherine Ahn 

Language is the human ability that I am afraid to lose. One of the most unique elements of being human is how we acquire language and the complexity of the language that we use. Without knowing and using languages, I would lose so much of the rewarding experiences that languages offer, such as interacting with others and expressing myself.

One part of Emory’s student culture that has not changed ever since my arrival is the library’s ambiance. The Woodruff library is a community space, where students come to study and socialize. You walk in the library and check in, using your Emory card. In passing the second floor, each study table has its own designated language including students from Korea, China, Costa Rica, Puerto Rica, India, etc. The Woodruff library is one example of a community where different languages thrive and develop. Here at Emory, languages, traditions, sciences, mathematics, and liberal arts converge. In this way, no matter where you are from, there is an opportunity to learn, experiment, and excel in the liberal arts.

Multilingualism at Emory’s Starbucks

While a liberal arts education struggles to overcome the high demand of students pursuing a STEM-related career, a decline in foreign language education can have devastating effects for future generations, especially since knowing a foreign language is becoming ever more essential. If foreign languages are sustained and improved in a liberal arts education, then a multicultural education is created. Colleges need to recognize the importance of their foreign language education programs to avoid becoming linguistically and culturally lacking. When students have access to a liberal arts education that requires foreign language requirements, they have a better chance at becoming global citizens, enriching the world with diversity.

I believe students in a liberal arts education must recognize the importance of sustaining foreign language education by actively using different languages and participating in platforming cultural clubs throughout campus. If students show increased demonstration of interest and need for expansion of cultures and languages in their education, then parents, faculty members and personnel in higher institutions can lobby for language programs anywhere.

As much as I advocate exploring languages and cultures during one’s time in undergrad, the liberal arts education is not for everyone. For me however, the implementation of foreign languages in a liberal arts education is critical to a student’s growth and development. Not only do foreign languages build a whole new level of understanding in connecting with people, it deepens my understanding of my personal identity. Learning a new language paves the way for creating experiences and finding similarities and differences among the people that I come into contact with. It is not only about acknowledging and respecting those differences with the people that we come across, but it is more so recognizing the similarities within those differences. At the end of the day, implementing the study of foreign languages and cultures has its base in taking risks to seek experiences that are outside of one’s comfort zone. I am not simply encouraging a “call to action,” in learning about foreign cultures, but more so, a call to “self-reflection” about what a liberal arts education should encourage students to explore.