After studying abroad in Seoul for a summer in high school, I was eager to return during college. Not only did I want to become better at speaking Korean, but I hoped to learn more about Korean history and film so I could better understand Korean politics and culture, given Korea’s current relevance to both foreign affairs and the global economy. Studying these subjects in Korea presented the opportunity for language immersion and to experience Korean culture first hand.
Harvard’s Summer School in Korea program thoroughly exceeded my expectations. Practicing Korean daily, through the rigorous Korean language class, chatting with my Korean roommate, and conversing with Korean people, exponentially improved my reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills. I became more confident with using the language in any setting outside of the classroom. In addition, I enjoyed the diverse range of Korean movies screened in the film course. The thoroughness of the film class’ exploration of Korean history, particularly the post Korean War period, also helped me to understand the context and mood behind the films.
The application of both of these courses outside the classroom was my favorite aspect of the program. Our weekend trip to the historic Silla capital of Gyeongju on the southeastern coast of Korea provided another viewpoint outside of Seoul. There, our class visited Buddhist temples, cultural villages, and museums. The Friday field trips were also memorable, as our class toured many of cultural and historic sites, some of which served as shooting locations for the films we watched. During these excursions, I saw what we learned in the classroom come to life. These experiences culminated in a final project that involved multiple interviews with Korean people, research on a topic of the group’s choice, and a multi-media. Through this assignment, I explored the connection between Korean cinema and history by linking what I learned from readings and lectures to what I had discovered while watching Korean films and traveling across the country.
The Harvard Summer School in Korea was one of my most memorable experiences at Harvard so far. I improved my Korean language skills through immersion and learned about Korean history through film. I am so grateful for being able to study abroad in a country I love thanks to the Korea Institute.