By Nick Kaye
Special to The Weekly
BANGOR — In a recent strategic plan, Husson University set its sights on internationalization. Within a two-year period, the school’s international student population grew from 18 to more than 100, and a number of global initiatives were put into motion. One of these initiatives is the Summer English Enrichment program.
The SEE program is a part of Husson’s partnership with Kookmin University, located in Seongbuk-gu, Seoul, South Korea. The program has brought 18 Korean students to the Bangor campus to study English and become acquainted with American culture from July 5 through Aug. 2.
“We believe that exposure to other cultures and other traditions really opens students eyes to the world and gets them ready for the future,” said Colleen Grover, director of international initiatives at Husson.
Each morning, the Korean students spend three hours studying English in a traditional classroom setting. These classes are taught by Steve Egland, an instructor with International Student Immigration Affairs at Husson, and Benjamin Hale, director of John Bapst’s English as a Second Language program.
Although many of the students have been studying English since they were 10 years old or younger, the SEE program provides them with new skills to keep up with fast-paced conversation and to understand idiomatic and slang expressions, said Grover.
Egland describes his experiences with the group of students as extremely positive. “They are animated, interested and enjoying themselves here,” he said.
In the afternoon, accompanied by student staff members from Husson, the Kookmin students participate in activities throughout Maine that are intended to connect them with American culture. These outings include a visit to Acadia National Park, karaoke night at Paddy Murphy’s, a Bangor Community Band concert, mini golfing, a visit to Portland and more.
Kookmin student Seung Cheol Jo identified the University of Maine ropes course as his favorite activity so far, while fellow student Ok Soo Kim said that a lobster dinner was definitely the best part of Maine she had experienced.
Maine is an unusual destination for international students from Korea, many of whom find themselves in Vancouver, Chicago or on the west coast of the United States, but Grover believes that it’s a perfect choice. “Maine is a safe place, and it’s beautiful, healthy and clean. This gives them a different perspective from their peers who might be going to more urban areas,” she said.
The SEE program is just one part of an ongoing exchange program partnership with Kookmin University, which is the sixth largest university in Seoul with approximately 22,000 students, 800 faculty members and an administrative staff of 350.
Husson already has hosted two exchange students from Kookmin and will host another two during the fall semester. In addition, Taylor Evans, a senior at Husson’s New England School of Communications, will spend the fall semester studying at Kookmin.
Evans’ trip is made possible through two scholarships. The Tom and Mary Martz Scholarship will cover her travel expenses, and a Korean government scholarship through the country’s National Institute for International Education will cover additional costs. The government scholarship is an honor rarely given to American students, said Grover.
“I’m ecstatic,” said Evans. “I think [my connection to Korean culture] is something I was born with.”
Husson will expand further upon its international focus with a program called College 101, beginning in August. The program will bring 22 Chinese students to Bangor for a three-day series of seminars that will teach them about the college search and application process in the United States. The students also will be exposed to Maine culture through a visit to Acadia National Park, a lobster dinner on the coast and more.
For information on Husson University’s international initiatives, visit husson.edu or contact Colleen Grover at 404-5640 or firstname.lastname@example.org.