Brooklyn College’s new academic partnership with Dongguk University in South Korea gives students from both institutions the opportunity to expand their worldview and strengthen their cultural competency.

“I have friends everywhere now,” says Raven Wilson—Brooklyn College (BC) senior, Korean popular music (K-pop) aficionado, and teaching/program assistant in the Media Production and Cultural Studies in South Korea Program. One of the first students to participate in the inaugural BC-Dongguk South Korea Exchange Program, Wilson, who double majors in communication and theater, is now the exchange program’s student ambassador.

“This program is great for students because you’re not being thrown into a situation where there’s no one there for you,” Wilson says. “This particular program doesn’t send students abroad solo; you’re always traveling with a group, so you always have a base that has your back.”

The exchange kicked off in the fall 2017 semester. Wilson, whose tuition cost was reimbursed through the Roy L. Furman ’60 Fellows Program (pdf), stayed at an off-campus dormitory near Seoul Station (the equivalent of New York City’s Penn Station). As a New Yorker, she had no problem navigating South Korea’s mass-transit system to get to school each day. It helped that the system made all announcements in Korean, English, Japanese, and Mandarin.

“The value of cultural competency cannot be overestimated,” says Gail Bier, senior director of International Education and Global Engagement at Brooklyn College. “For students to be able to say to a potential employer that they spent time studying in another country demonstrates that they are proficient in working with people very different from themselves, in environments very different from ones they are accustomed to, that they are able to communicate across challenges and are open to expanding their worldview. This gives them the edge needed to stand out among other candidates.”

While at Dongguk, Wilson took some courses that were taught fully in English and others that were taught at a 60/40 percent split (60 English, 40 in Korean), including communication theory, introduction to Korean film, Korean language, and film production. Wilson said that of those, the film production class was the toughest, as she and her classmates were required to make a short film every week for the first six weeks. Afterward, they were placed into groups and instructed to make a feature-length film out of their disparate short pieces in a way that interlocked to create a single narrative. Additionally, the students were each assigned to make their own experimental film project that contained no dialogue, but told the story through images.

“That was the most intense class of all the courses I took at Dongguk,” says Wilson, who earned A’s in every class, despite the Korean grading system that limits the number of students who can receive an A grade in each course.

JiHoon Song, a Dongguk University junior who is majoring in business management, was among the students who spent a semester at Brooklyn College. He says he chose to study at the college because of its reputation for providing a rigorous education and its location in one of the most dynamic cities in the world.

“New York has different kinds of food from all over the world, and I could enjoy the best quality of many things such as musicals, museums, concerts, and other arts. I chose Brooklyn College for this semester because the professors are passionate and the courses are extremely useful.”

Song took six courses: Aerobics, Principles of Marketing, Global Business Environment, Introduction to Mass Media, Intercultural Communication, and Introduction to Communication.

“I loved the campus,” he says. “It was so quiet and has many places to sit and contemplate or study. I could lie on the grass. I liked the college’s gym as well. I worked out four times a week. I became healthier because of it. Another great place was the Brooklyn College Library. I will recommend other Dongguk students participate in the exchange program because Brooklyn College has awesome professors and wonderful students.”

Wilson, who befriended Song and keeps in touch with him via KakaoTalk, a South Korea texting app, will be graduating with the Class of 2019 in the spring. She plans to pursue a career in entertainment management and artist representation.

Interested in taking your education around the globe? The Tow Undergraduate/Graduate International Research Stipend enables undergraduate and graduate students to conduct research in settings outside the United States during the winter intersession. It is designed to expand students’ academic experiences and to enrich their lives, and that of the college, by providing access to educational opportunities abroad. The online application is available on the Brooklyn College Scholarships and Awards homepage. The deadline is October 31, 2018.

Brooklyn College is able to provide its students with the kind of global engagement opportunities they need to expand their learning and stand out in the marketplace thanks to the generosity of alumni and friends received through the Brooklyn College Foundation. To learn about the various ways to contribute to student success, please visit the foundation website.