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Ask Away: 5 Questions for a Student of Korean at Yonsei University

 

We’re asking students, teachers, and counselors five questions on how languages play a role in shaping personal and professional success…

Meet Addie—a student at Yonsei University in South Korea interested in majoring in International Studies and Korean.

"Ask Away: 5 Questions" banner graphic with Addie's portrait
1. What was your first experience learning a language other than English—when did you start and how?

I was first exposed to another language in my public elementary school where I had a Spanish class once or twice a week. Although I had that exposure throughout elementary and middle school, it wasn’t until I attended high school where I had access to Spanish classes that taught the language in a way that allowed me to use it in my daily life.

2. What motivated you to apply to the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) program in South Korea?

When I was four years old, one of my younger brothers was adopted from South Korea. As my brothers and I grew up, my family attended a Korean school with the purpose of learning about Korean history and culture. As I got older, I realized that this interest in learning about Korea was limited without the ability to speak Korean.

Additionally, I felt as though if I could learn Korean, then perhaps one day if my adopted brother wanted to learn Korean, I would be able to share that connection with where he was from with him.

Without other opportunities at my high school to learn the language, I applied to NSLI-Y during my sophomore year and was grateful to be awarded with a scholarship for their summer program. That experience was so positive, I applied for the program again and was grateful to have been selected to spend an academic year in South Korea.

3. Was the NSLI-Y program your first immersion experience? What is the biggest lesson you’ve taken from living immersed in another culture and language?
portrait of Addie and her host mom with bouquets
Addie with her Host Mom

It was my first immersion experience, and the lessons I learned from it were so numerous it is difficult to select the biggest one. To make the most of my time attending a high school in Seoul, living with a host family, and attending Korean classes, I would say that staying open-minded became not only a way of life, but a lesson in how to learn. I realized during the program that it is open-mindedness that facilitated relationships in my host community, allowed me to embrace all that my host families wanted to share with me, and gave me the resilience to overcome difficult situations not with anger, but with understanding that doing something differently did not make it wrong.

4. What do you enjoy most about the process of learning another language?

I love the way of thinking that it opens: how I have a new way of experiencing our world through new words and grammar. It is especially exciting learning words that are not easily translated to English, an experience I felt more often learning Korean than Spanish, as it challenges my ideas about how I live while making me reflect on the culture, history, and values of other societies.

Addie with friends
Addie with Friends
5. What do you believe is the biggest misconception of language learning in America?

I believe the biggest misconception of language learning in the U.S. is that it is not useful to speak anything other than English in the United States, so we need not learn another language.

When I talk to other Americans, it often surprises them that although English is accepted as our most commonly used language, there is no official language of the United States. To me, the beauty is that Americans come from many different backgrounds and that is reflected in the different languages we use.

Speaking another language besides English in the United States provides so many opportunities for us to connect with others and can be useful regardless of someone’s personal or professional goals.

BONUS QUESTION: Can you tell us if/how studying in South Korea has impacted your future career plans and the role you imagine the Korean language may play in your next steps?

Studying in South Korea has influenced my life in ways I cannot even begin to comprehend.

In the shorter term, studying Korean with NSLI-Y has motivated me to pursue my bachelor’s degree in South Korea where I look forward to continuing my studies of international relations and Korean. In the long term, although I do not yet know if I will seek to work in the public or private sector, I hope to find a job where I could use my Korean to benefit other people and promote peace.

 

Interested in exploring language scholarships, university programs, or student testimonials in Korean or another language? Visit our Choose Your Language page to learn more. Also check out our Grants and Scholarships page for information on opportunities like the NSLI-Y Program, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and administered by American Councils for International Education.

And, as always, don’t forget to share your language learning story @LeadWLanguages on social media!