As our 2022 Faculty-Led Study Abroad program came to a close, our SF State students worked closely with their Woosong University co-teachers to develop projects about cultural exchange and early childhood education. The teams worked together to create children’s books, learn how to play traditional Korean instruments, exchanged recipes, and much more.
Right off the bat, the teams bonded with one another by having lunch at the university and exploring Daejeon together. Over the next two weeks, the projects were well underway with some teams visiting museums to learn about Hanji fairy tale books and traditional art, some taking a Janggu (traditional Korean drum) class, and others sharing American and Korean children’s songs with each other.
Other groups, however, developed teaching materials together to better understand the educational differences of the two countries, as well as how elements of both can be combined to supplement cross-cultural curriculums. One group created works of art using Hanji and discussed how kindergarten students can engage with the traditional paper material. Another group produced a fairy tale book rooted in social-emotional learning and made use of design elements like pastel colors and fishing lines.
A group of five students also created a children’s book but focused on cultural understanding and acceptance. The story, “Just Like Us”, revolved around two children from different countries exchanging opinions about each other’s culture. The story ultimately ended with the two characters holding hands and appreciating their differences.
The last group to develop a children’s story was given a difficult task: a three-dimensional picture book. The story, “Yellow Puppy Travel”, is about a puppy that travels to different countries and interacts with characters from many cultures. The project required cutting, folding, and gluing hardboard paper to achieve a pop-up book effect on each page.
Our SF State students surely will never forget the friendships they’ve made during our program. They were excited to see their Korean friends over Zoom a few weeks after flying back to the U.S. and were able to reflect on their time in Daejeon. Whether they were singing karaoke together, going shopping at Sky Mall, or learning about each other’s cultures, every day was a new adventure and an experience to last a lifetime.
To check out the SWU-SFSU student project posters in more detail, click here. Also, take a look at our 2022 Study Abroad photo gallery!
After quarantining for two days in Hongdae, I was finally able to go outside and explore the magnificent party central of Seoul. I saw the see-through karaoke buildings, clothing stores, street performances, and cafes. Compared to Daejeon, Seoul is a very lively city with so many people so it was a little overwhelming being outside. I also got to experience my first Starbucks drink here! I found it really interesting how they have different cups for people who want to enjoy their drink inside and who want to take it to go. After that, I went back to my hotel room only to be surprised by a spontaneous plan. Gwen sent a text saying “Namsan Tower tonight??” How could I say no to that?! That place is known and seen in every single kdrama ever created!! Even my grandma knows what it is!! Laurie also responded to that text and said “yeah!! let’s do it!!” I put on my shoes once more and go downstairs to meet Laurie so we can take the subway. We found navigating the subway very easy and Laurie was impressed with how clean the subway was compared to the Muni back in the Bay Area. After taking the subway for 15 minutes, we finally made it to Gwen’s stop and met up with her. After another subway and bus trip, we finally made it to Namsan Tower and it was gorgeous!! We went to the very top of the Tower and we could see all of Seoul. We were literally on top of the world!! We then took the elevator down and say all the heart locks that we attached to the tower. There were so many heart locks and, surprisingly, many phone cases attached to the bar too. You wouldn’t believe the number of pictures Gwen, Laurie, and I took. Since we were at Namsan Tower, we decided to get a lock at a convenience store, write our names on it, and lock it to the bar as well. So if you go to Namsan Tower and see a little grey lock that says Gwen, Laurie, and Bri on it, just know that that’s ours!! After that, we walked around more to see the view of the city and took many pictures. Soon, we decided to head back home but instead of hiking down the big hill, we decided to take the cable car all the way to the bottom of the tower!! Although our view was partially covered by trees, we were still able to have an amazing time riding down and enjoying the view of Seoul. I had an amazing time in Namsan Tower and I hope to visit it again during the day!!
Because we no longer had any in-person group activities planned, I was able to head to Seoul early. I thought I would be more excited to head to Seoul, but I was pretty sad. I had gotten really close with some of the people on our trip. We would all eat together, explore together, and play games in the dorm. It also made me sad to think that I might not see the Korean students ever again. They really treated us with hospitality, and we became good friends. We didn’t get to say goodbye, and I was only able to tell them how appreciative I was over text.
Today I visited Gyeongbokgung which is the largest palace in Korea. It was only five minutes, via train, from my hotel. When I got there, I was watching the ending of a ceremony when a man approached me saying they were giving free English tours. I replied, “Okay thank you”. He took this as a yes and dragged me over to the tour guides. I then got a personal tour of the whole palace. The two tour guides were shocked at how little I knew about the palace and Korean history, so my tour was about 1.5 hours. The palace was so beautiful, and I was sad to hear that it burned down many years ago. As we went further and further in the palace it kept getting prettier and prettier. One of my favorite parts was the Gyeonghoeru Pavilion which was a venue on a man-made island. You have to look it up! I also really enjoyed the detailed artwork on the exterior of the buildings. The style is so beautiful. I learned that a long time ago when they used paint that they made from resources they found in nature, the paint would last around 300 years. Now they use paint that is artificially made and it only lasts around 20 years. The whole area was filled with people wearing Hanbok and I wish I would have rented one before I visited. The palace was way bigger, and hotter, than I anticipated so I got pretty worn out. After my tour, I got Starbucks and facetimed some of my peers from SF State. I’m sad that we weren’t able to experience it together.
Covid-19 isn’t something we can control. No matter how hard you try to sanitize, mask up, and social distance. Your chance of getting COVID-19 is most likely the same as the stranger next to you. As awful as that sounds it’s the sad truth. Our Cohort couldn’t escape the pandemic even though we were here to accomplish amazing things for young children. Yes, the COVID cases among us has made our program move remotely and ended our in-person program a little early. One could say we didn’t finish and they would be correct, but also they weren’t here with us going into the schools and seeing all of us working together as one big family to help each other to reach greatness. We needed just about one more week for our in-person program, so close yet so far. However, instead of being sad, or depressed, there is something we can control which is our mental and emotional state. I personally feel we the SF State cohort did a phenomenal job working here in South Korea with the Woosong university students and the kindergarten kids.
I feel so blessed and lucky that I was even able to come to South Korea and experience all of this. And I’m sure I share the same feeling with others in my group as well. I never told anyone this but I felt so happy being around people who wanted to work with children. Even though some had tons of experience with children compared to others I could see it in their faces they wanted to be here and didn’t want this opportunity of a lifetime to go to waste. All I heard was good feedback from our professors and graduate students towards us. Letting us know that we are doing an amazing job. Yes, of course, some constructive feedback, but in a positive way to push us in the right direction. To do more than what was asked of us and go above and beyond because these children deserved it.
All in all, with our in-person program coming to an end I can’t speak for everyone else, but I have been doing my best to stay positive and just enjoy my time left in South Korea. It’s a beautiful and hot country here with various things to do. With my time off I’ve been using their wonderful track to run for my mental health as it helps me keep a positive mindset.
While also trying to adventure out safely because I don’t want to get sick or get lost in this country. While doing so I’ve been able to take some photos of the things I’ve been experiencing. First is a picture of a sleepy cat that was on a table when I went to a cat cafe for the first time. Literally had cats of all ages just running around wanting to play with humans. 10/10 I would definitely recommend people to go if you have the chance. Next is a picture of a little river I suppose that I saw while walking across a beautiful bridge to reach a shopping market. I stopped to take a photo because when I looked down I could see small fishes swimming around and see birds just sitting in the water and flying away. It was a beautiful moment to just watch as nature is breathtaking sometimes. And lastly a picture of the beautiful red sky I caught from my dorm room as the sun was setting away. It’s always about enjoying the little things in life and keeping a positive mindset no matter what life throws at you.
After finding out that there are potential positive COVID infections within our group, I had a nightmare last night where I flew back to the states early. I woke up from the dream around 5:45am and realized that I was still in Korea. I was glad that I didn’t leave yet, but I also felt a lot of anxiety and adrenaline. It was like I was on flight mode, so I got up and put my clothes on and headed out the door right away.
After leaving the dorm, I started calming down. The sun has not risen yet, so I took this opportunity to go on a jog and eventually ended up at “Sky Park”. The view from up there was amazing. Eventually, I headed down and went back to my dorm room. I felt like I my anxiety/adrenaline was still going off, so I showered and then headed to “Sky Road” to get some breakfast and restock on supplies. I was able to get the famous bakery, and got a veggie croquette and a veggie sandwich from there. I also was able to get a good photo shot of the “Mokcheokgyo Bridge” before leaving which really made my day since it was on my bucket list. I was able to get back to my dorm right before a Covid zoom meeting. After the meeting I headed back to “Sky Road” because I really wanted another pair of “Discovery Expedition” scandals that one of the Korean students recommended to me. The brand is known for their soft and comfortable footwear, which really helped my aching knees.
After I got my second pair of scandals, I headed to the 5 floor Daiso that everyone was talking about. I didn’t get anything there because I kind of got everything I needed already but I really wanted to check it out. After Daiso, it was around 7pm and I knew the sun is setting at 8pm, so I rode the bus to Expo Park. I got to the park just in time for the sunset and was able to get an amazing shot of the Expo Bridge. Expo Park has a water area where families relax and eat food which was fun to observe.
My day started out as a nightmare, but that nightmare motivated me to jog to “Sky Park”, go to “Sky Road”, check out “Mokcheokgyo Bridge”, learn more about a new shoe brand called “Discovery Expedition”, experience the 5 floor Daiso, and make the trip to “Expo Park” to get an amazing shot of the “Expo Bridge”.
Day thirteen of being in Daejeon and I have finally adjusted to the sixteen-hour time difference and getting used to life in South Korea. My classmates and I started off the day with our last lecture given by Dr. Paik for our study abroad program. In the lecture, I learned more about Dr. Paik and the research that she has been conducting over the last 20 years. The research that she has conducted has demonstrated the improvement of children that undergo social and emotional learning (SEL). It was fascinating to learn and made me happy to be a part of the SEL program and help to make a difference.
After class, Maxine and I met up with our group to finish our project of decorating lanterns and fans with Korean traditional paper called Hanji. Our group taught us how to make homemade glue with water, flour, and heat. It was strong and fun to use when we were making our designs with the Hanji. Once we were finished with our decorations, we moved on to the next part of our project which was the exchanging of American and Korean food. It was fun to watch, and sometimes interfere with, our Korean group members make Dakdoritang (chicken stew) and kimchi-buchimgae (kimchi pancake). Maxine and I made Mac and cheese, which did not seem as exciting as the Korean dishes and we had a bit of a mishap when making the dish, but it seemed to be a success among our group members. I was excited to eat the Korean dishes and they were really delicious and I could eat them forever. It was an amazing time and it made me more appreciative of Korean food and culture. I do not want to brag but I believe group one’s project is the best project compared to the other groups.
Today I was able to take my time waking up and was pleasantly reminded of the fresh laundry I had waiting for me that was done the night before (Shout out to Bri and Graciella for helping me out with that <3). Hailey and I reluctantly got out of bed but my refreshingly cold morning shower effectively woke my mind and body up. Coffee and morning sandwiches with friends at A Twosome Place, a conveniently close and yummy coffee shop on campus, also made a great start to the day. I felt fresh and ready for the day and excited to get to work. SEL prep went pretty smoothly for everyone; we rehearsed with our Korean colleagues and then had a break for a rest and lunch. Those who went to lunch at the school cafeteria really enjoyed a small taste of home as they served the yummy spaghetti and fries!
The lesson we taught at Woosong today, where I am based, was focused on friendship. After introductions, I read a book to the children that highlights healthy ways to meet and interact with friends. Since we wanted to communicate the importance of learning about and doing kind acts for our friends, we paired them up and had them ask each other what colors and animal beads they prefer. They used this to make a friendship bracelet that is customized to their partner's liking. When they exchanged, you could see the light on their faces as they received their carefully crafted gift. They all graciously said “Gomawoyo!” which means “thank you” when speaking to a friend. At times it was hard to control their energy, but I was able to focus their attention and in the end, we got through it. Afterward, we debriefed in the classroom and gave great notes to better prepare each other for Thursday. I talked with friends and rested before I went out again to work on projects that our Korean group partners prepared for us to do together. To my joy, it was all art projects and games! We spent the next few hours coloring, painting, and crafting traditional Korean fans, lanterns, spinning tops, and ddakji origami game pieces. It was incredibly fun, and even after a long, tiring day, it revived my energy and mood. I have loved spending time with my Korean friends, and I think it was my favorite night with them so far. :)
Today, I woke up early in order to do some summer homework for my other classes. Once I finished, I got ready for today’s activities. In this year’s cohort, there are four Filipino American students. We were all missing Filipino food and planned to visit a Filipino restaurant during our stay in Daejeon. Through this student teaching program, we met Dr. Roquillo, a Filipino Professor that has been teaching in South Korea since 2012. She invited us to eat some Filipino food after we talked to her about missing our parent’s home cooked meals back in the U.S. Dr. Roquillo welcomed us with open arms into her small and humble office. We feasted on chicken adobo, pancit, sisig, and puto. She even showed us her collection of The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, which she has in 13 different languages/versions. Time flew by with Dr. Roquillo and before we knew it, it was time to attend Graciela and Danica’s Presentations.
Graciela and Danica are graduate students that have been part of this program since the beginning of this cohort. Their lectures included information about U.S. children’s social and emotional health during the pandemic through SEL programming as well as how service learning promotes awareness and development of school-based social emotional professionals. Through Graciela’s question of asking what the Korean college students noticed about their kindergarteners’ while facing the pandemic, I found out that they noticed the Korean kindergarteners had a hard time with learning Korean due to not being able to read the teacher’s lips because of having to wear facemasks. They noticed that the kids did not want to play with one another at the beginning and were more interested in media such as youtube. This is very similar to what some of us have noticed in the U.S. as well. Afterwards, we had SEL prep for this week’s activities which include feeling flowers and friendship bracelets. The day did not end there, at least not for my partner Ai-Vi and I. We met up with our Korean partners to write Korean calligraphy on Korean paper called, “hanji/ 한지.” Our team also made hanji fans, hanji lanterns, and created a diorama using the Korean paper. It was a super fun activity to end the day with and I was able to become even closer with the Korean students through this experience!
On our first day free of any SEL activities, I expected to wake up at 6 am, run on the track field, catch some breakfast in the cafeteria, and spend the day working my presentation for the next day’s lecture. None of that happened. With my internal clock finally set on Korean time, I struggled to get up in the morning, as I do back home. However, after an invite from my dorm mates Danica and Hannah, I found myself on an hour-long bus ride to the Gyejoksan Mountain Red Clay Trail. Having never hiked before, I can say this was this was an amazing first experience. The weather was perfect, and the scenery was breathtaking. Most of our march up the trail was spent taking pictures of the trees, the ponds, and the streams. After hiking and swatting away bugs for about an hour, we set our final destination at a clearing. The clearing had a stage where classical music was playing, and we took a moment to catch our breaths before heading back down, which ended up being the best part of the entire journey. Why? Because we were able to travel down barefoot on a trail of red clay! Hikers have the option to hike the mountain on the regular dirt trail or the red clay trail, which was as soft as play-doh. After reading about the clay and hearing about its therapeutic benefits, Danica, Hannah and I decided to just go for it, and we hiked back down barefoot. It was the most interesting experience I’ve had in Korea so far. The clay felt like putty and even sparkled in the sun.
After reaching the bottom of the trail, we washed the clay off and dried our toes in rinsing stations and stopped by a cart selling amazing street food at the base of the path. Snacking on Sotteok, a kabob of rice cake and sausage with a sweet sauce, hit the spot after a one and a half hour hike. After we finished, we headed back home to shower and eat a bit, after which I worked on my presentation. Finally, I got ready to have dinner with our Woosong University partners and our SFSU group! We were able to spend the night eating and talking and getting to know each other better than we have before. New friendships were made, and bonds with our partners and our groups have definitely grown stronger. It was a great start to our second week.
The alarm blared at 7:10 am and it took me a while to get up. After about 20 minutes, I got up and took my COVID test. I tested negative! I felt a little anxious as I knew we were bound to meet both the parents and kids. After having breakfast, I, along with three others, rushed to the W9/ECE building to help prepare for Family Day/Program early. As I was walking toward the building, I noticed how hard our Korean partners were working; I am forever grateful for their hard work! This special day consisted of many activities, such as Jenga, maracas, jump ropes, lanterns, jacks, kendama, dreidel, and statue game. As the nerves were slowly settling down, I noticed that my group’s initial activity, the statue game, had a major change; we were not allowed to play music! My nerves slowly started rising again, but, luckily, my wonderful Korean partners suggested playing Mugunghwa Flower/Red Light, Green Light. However, we did not get to play this as we and the students were more interested in using the badminton and birdies our Korean partners made. I was so amazed at how innovative they are at creating things; they used stockings as the net for the badminton and the top quarter of the bottle as the birdie! The first few students who came to our station were a little shy and wanted to play with their parent(s) first. Joanna and I noticed the student was having a little difficulty comprehending the game, so Joanna and I decided to play badminton to demonstrate it for them. As the sun beamed down on us, more and more children came to our station and enjoyed playing badminton. At one point, I played badminton with one group for 15/20 minutes! They definitely enjoyed it and, who knows, maybe they will become professional badminton players! After the wonderful Family Day Event, SFSU students were able to eat the food that was served. There were a variety of foods: Korean rice cake, kimbap, sandwiches, and fruits. I really enjoyed the kimbap, it was very 맛있는 (delicious)! Overall, Family Day was definitely a success! It was marvelous to see the children try different things and bond with their parents and teachers at the same time!
After the hard work was done, we got to rest for a bit and, then, treated ourselves by … going to a concert! As one would say, work hard, play hard! Gwen, Jonathan, Maxine, Michelle, Nisha, and I went to Seoul to go to a Seventeen concert (my favorite K-pop group!). To do this, we took a taxi to Daejeon Station and, then, took KTX to Seoul Station, which took about 45-50 minutes (and we were in cart #17!). Seoul Station is pretty huge and it was confusing to transfer to the subway and find which way to go. After successfully hopping onto the train, it took us around 20 minutes to get to Guil Station, which was directly in front of Gocheok Sky Dome. The concert started at 7 p.m. and my excitement grew bigger and bigger as the time neared that time. It was amazing to hear their intro (Say the name, Seventeen!) live after two years of being unable to because of the pandemic. Sadly, at the end of the concert, we had to leave early to be able to make it to the last train at 11:30 p.m. However, I still enjoyed the concert so, so, so much and even cried during one of their songs! I could definitely cross this off my bucket list: going to a Seventeen concert in Seoul/Korea! Connecting it back to their concert name, Be The Sun, SFSU and WSU students continuously shine bright and become beacons of light to the Woosong and Gayang children! We are the sun!