Thursday, March 26, 2009

Closing thoughts

While the students’ suitcases were packed with many souvenirs, perhaps more lasting will be their memories of a land halfway around the world. Despite spending half a semester studying about South Korea's history, culture and economy, it was difficult for many to predict what they would encounter. After the 10-day trip -- including a week in country -- they had a lot to say.

To conclude this blog, we asked some of them to share their thoughts, which follow below.

Dani said her travels provided her with context on where the United States fits into the world scene.

"The most important thing that I learned about Korea is that the culture is so different from the US, yet they have found tremendous economic success even with these cultural differences," she said.

"Many foreigners consider America the economic powerhouse because of the techniques enacted within the nation. But, countries such as Japan and Korea, who have largely differentiated cultures and histories, have found the same success as the United States. It amazes me how whole countries find their strengths and weaknesses and play on those to create a successful economy."

Eric couldn’t pick just one highlight, so he provided a list:

1) Seeing Seoul stretch out for miles and miles from atop Seoul Tower on Mount Namsan at night.
2) The modernity, cleanliness, and size of Seoul, especially given that everything in the sprawling metropolis was built after the mid-1950s.
3) The prevalence of technology that seems to be superior to what we have in the United States.
4) Playing “football” with the SKKU students at Han River Park and having an amazing time with them at lunch. Their genuine kindness and generosity is unparalleled and we forever owe them a debt of gratitude.
5) Our adventures with the mannequin hand. Enough said.

To explain, three students purchased mannequin hands from vendors and had fun with them throughout the week in various contexts. One student now has a photo gallery on his Facebook page entitled, "A Handful of Seoul."

Indiana University and the Kelley School of Business in the last couple of years have placed a tremendous amount of emphasis on increasing student awareness and understanding of the world around them. In 2003, alumnus Ed Hutton contributed $9 million to IU to establish an endowment for the International Experiences Program. The students' trip was one of four spring break trips abroad.

Nikhil said he saw the impact of the efforts first-hand.

There were a whole lots of things that we learned in Korea, but the most important of them was the fact that I learned the importance and the true value of being a Kelley undergraduate student," he said. "I realized how well known and appreciated we are even outside of the United States. The hospitality that we received from the SKKU students was simply amazing."