Oglethorpe Junior Wins Scholarship to Study in South Korea

Oglethorpe junior Joseph White was recently awarded a GAIN Scholarship by the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) to study abroad. He’ll use the award to spend his spring semester in Seoul studying South Korea’s culture, language and politics. Joe will be the first Oglethorpe student to study abroad in the politically tumultuous country.

GAIN scholars are selected for their dedication to internationalizing their education. While in South Korea, Joe will fulfill the study abroad requirement for his international studies major, and will study North Korean politics as part of his politics minor. He plans to work in politics with an emphasis on Korean affairs, an interest that began several years ago.

Joe first got the opportunity to travel the summer after he graduated from Stars Mill High School. Most of his friends visited Europe for their pre-college travels, but he wanted to try something a little more adventurous.

“I went to Korea for about two weeks to visit a friend that was teaching English there. I toured around the area, didn’t do a whole lot of stuff I wanted to do, but did some of the major tourist highlights. But now I really want to get involved with their culture, their language, and even potentially some of their history.”

When he got the opportunity to study abroad at Oglethorpe, it was this location that called to him. As assistant to OU Study Abroad Director Dr. Jeffrey Collins, Joe spent this semester helping other students abroad.

“I make sure that their classes are going well, that they’re integrating into society, stuff like that. If there’s something wrong personally with them it’s easier to talk to a student than it is to talk to a teacher. I’m that buffer between student and teacher.”  Now, though, he’s ready to be in their shoes.

“The school [in Korea] is ranked one of the ivy league in the Asian Pacific. And it’s the only one that offers North Korean politics. That’s the reason I want to go there– to study Korea’s relationship with its fellow Koreans up north and how North Korea affects everything in that area. Especially because, South Korea being one of our main allies, if anything happens to (them) we’re obligated to engage and support them.”

He’s been preparing for the trip by studying the language on his own and working with his martial arts master, a fluent Korean speaker. His study of martial arts influenced his study abroad decisions tremendously. “I’ve been doing [Taekwondo], which is the Korean national martial art, for over 11 years now. When I went to Korea the first time, I got to visit the place where it all started. I want to spend more time understanding the theory and philosophy  of Taekwondo.” It’s this familiar, but exotic, culture that Joseph is excited to immerse himself in.

Joseph’s course load will be heavy on Korean language, which he hopes to speak by the time he graduates. His language classes will have a cultural immersion element that will give him the chance to speak, write and read Korean as well as visit with native speakers. “I want to work with the State Department with Korean affairs, because I love the country and I love the people and I respect them very much. So wherever I go, either DC or a national hub like Atlanta, I want to be able to work closely with Korean culture and maybe even business…and possibly be an ambassador to South Korea for the United States.”

“Joe White winning this scholarship to study in Seoul is a great honor for both to our university and to Joe,” said Dr. Collins. “The program is highly competitive, and it is the first time for an OU student to win a CIEE scholarship to study in Seoul.  It only indicates how global OU has become, and how we are now known and respected across the world for our academics and student engagement. I am terrifically proud of him.”

Joseph will leave for South Korea in the spring, and wants to encourage all interested OU students to consider having a study abroad experience of their own!

Part IV: “Learning experiences at Oglethorpe came full circle” in Italy

This summer’s short term, for-credit trip to Italy made an enormous impact on the students who participated. Following up on the original post by Dr. Jeffrey Collins, we now hear from three of those students, in their own words.  [Part II]  [Part III]

OU students Sean Lovett, Joscelyn Stein and author Katherine Law together in Fiesole, an Italian mountain village overlooking Florence.

I didn’t think after my transfer to Oglethorpe I would have time to go abroad. Thinking about leaving yet another place was stressful in itself and felt like too much jumping around. My summer was going to be a busy one; I needed to get a list of things done, not only school oriented, but for my entire future in general. Being able to go to Italy this summer AND get a class credit sounded too good to be true.

The journey I took to Florence and Rome, wasn’t just “good,” it was an almost perfect balance of seeing, experiencing and feeling. Being a studio art major, I had a seriously touching experience. I had just taken the Art and Culture Core class this past spring with Professor Loehle. The class had covered, of course, dozens of topics and art pieces; however, we only got to experience these sights through a screen. I got to go to Rome and Florence and experience first hand an overwhelming amount of what I learned in the classroom this past spring.

I stood before masterpieces, ruins, churches, sculptures, etc. feeling knowledgeable and well informed, inspired and humbled. It felt really good. I was enamored standing in front of Botticelli’s Primavera—truly blown away by the mere sight of something so beautiful and, for the first time, out of my textbook. Seeing the David, a staggering 17-feet tall, with every detail carved down to a seemingly blood pumping vein in his hand—I didn’t move on to the next room for over 30 minutes.

Dr. Collins and Professor Loehle supplemented all this awe by guiding and helping me understand what I was truly taking in and on so many different and new levels. We had on this trip discussions, critiques, debates—everything teachers can bring to the classroom we used too, but in museums, in front of ruins or standing before a statue. My learning experiences at Oglethorpe came full circle while I was in Italy, this appreciation never leaving my heart and mind while touring these beautiful cities.

I learned my away around Rome and Florence on so many different and exciting levels. I could guide you to the Pantheon from our hotel, on the way giving you its history, and I could have a confident discussion on Caravaggio’s The Calling of Saint Matthew and the revolutionary techniques he employed as an artist. I had a grasp of the culture along with an expanded mind. I was entirely out of my element, a visiting art student in a new country; however, I was constantly accompanied by a solid group of caring, ambitious and intelligent individuals, all there to fully experience Italy along with me. I got to form my own opinions, hear from other students in my group and absorb a new culture, all at the same time. I got the full ride on this trip, mind, body and soul. And to think I was getting a class credit the whole time was just the cherry on top.

It was an overall amazing, unforgettable two weeks of my life. I would recommend this trip to all students, especially the transfer students who are down on being unable to go to abroad during the school year! I am truly inspired and it feels awesome finding myself putting forth new efforts to keep this fire alive in my everyday motions. And so far, so good.

Part III: Oglethorpe professors help history come alive in Italy

This summer’s short term, for-credit trip to Italy made an enormous impact on the students who participated. Following up on the original post by Dr. Jeffrey Collins, we now hear from three of those students, in their own words.   [Part II]  [Part IV]

The author Annie Morgan in an Italian market. Photo: Robert Findley

Earlier this summer, I boarded a plane to Italy with a group of Oglethorpe students, Italia-bound. As I settled into my seat, thumbing the pages of a book about the Sistine Chapel ceiling, I wrestled with a sinking feeling. As an English major, I’d studied little art, art history, or even Roman history in my four years at Oglethorpe. I knew that I was one of the least prepared students on that plane. In the weeks leading up to the trip, I had scrambled to catch up on what knowledge I could. I found myself sitting cross-legged in the Italian history section at Barnes & Noble, lamenting all the things I didn’t know. The only fruit from that endeavor was the book in my hands and the sad feeling that I wouldn’t get to experience Italy in all of her fullness.

Leave it to the Oglethorpe faculty to exceed my expectations, as usual.

Photo: Laura Jacques

It was clear within moments of setting foot in Rome that my lack of information was not going to be a problem for very long. As soon as our weary troupe of travelers stepped off the bus next to Teatro de Marcello, our professors started scanning the horizon with a strange glint in their eyes. As a group, our energy was waning in the doldrums of jetlag, and all I could think about was finding a panino and a pillow. Dr. Collins and Professor Loehle, however, lit up like a couple of Christmas trees as soon as they saw the crumbling brick walls of ancient Rome. They could hardly wait to start explaining things to us, to let us in on their joy. Their love for the places we would see worked perfectly in tandem with my desire to learn; I was full of curiosity, and they were brimming with thoughts and information to share. I doubt that every student who studies abroad in Italy is fortunate enough to have professors who care so ardently about what students know about what they see.

Photo: Laura Jacques

And our professors weren’t the only ones filling up our brains with new things; Italy herself was a great teacher, and the more time I spent getting to know her, the more colorful my experiences became.

Thus, many of my favorite moments of the trip happened when I tackled Rome or Florence with only a map and a friend to guide me. Usually this happened at the end of the day when everyone was free to find dinner on their own, and my friend Sean and I would wander through parts of the cities that we hadn’t yet explored. While the daylight hours were packed with narratives from history that made the city come alive, the evenings were when we got to live out our own Italy stories—ones I’ll never forget.

Photo: Laura Jacques

It seems like I would need a decade to do justice in writing to all the magic that we found in unexpected places: the trees that overhang the Tiber and catch the gold glint of streetlights at night; the guitarist that filled up one piazza with songs that made you feel like you were dreaming; the organ concert in a gorgeous old church, with the music coming through the rafters like thunder and shaking the pews. It was on an adventure with Sean that I first glimpsed the coliseum and the forum, both very haunting and mysterious in the moonlight. One night, we stumbled upon Michelangelo’s Piazza in Florence, with its stairs winding up seemingly straight into the night sky. At the top, we discovered a breathtaking view of Tuscany, tiny lights glittering from the Duomo all the way to far away hillsides. And, of course, we made sure to track down the best gelateria we could find in both cities, and to celebrate our success by returning to those wonderful establishments—frequently.

In the last 12 months, I have set foot in five countries other than my own—never did I feel less prepared for any of them than when I boarded that plane to Rome. I can confidently say, however, that if I left with my hands proverbially empty, I came back with more than I could carry. In my mind, this voyage to Italy was very much what a study abroad trip ought to be: not only did the history of art in that country come alive to me for the first time, the place itself offered more culturally than anyone could grasp in just two weeks. And maybe that’s better, anyway—I suppose I’ll just have to go back!

Northern Spain: OU Students’ Colorful Classroom

Here, the group stands in front of one of Barcelona’s most iconic skyline structures---the Sagrada Familia.

Over winter break, a group of Oglethorpe students and staff traveled to the  “land of the setting sun” to discover northern Spain’s rich past and incredible culture.  

Led by Dr. Mario Chandler, the short-term study abroad trip focused exclusively on the extensive cultural and linguistic diversity north of the Iberian Peninsula. 

“It was my hope that my students would gain a greater appreciation for the mind-boggling complexity of Spanish culture,” said Dr. Chandler, who, in the past, has led groups of OU students to both Central and Southern Spain. He wanted them to see that there are many components (Basque, Celtic, Moorish, and Roman, for example) that make up the Spanish ‘whole.’ 

Several students reported that they were able to use the language skills they’d learned in the classroom while out and about in Northern Spain, acting as “consummate ambassadors” for their country and gaining more confidence in their Spanish skills. 

Bilbao, Spain: The short-term study abroad group visited the Guggenheim Museum, featuring modern and contemporary international art.

“Everywhere we went there was an opportunity to utilize our knowledge,” said Jimmy Turner, a Spanish major who had never traveled overseas before.  “I took the opportunity to test out my skills by speaking with a concierge at a hotel in which I was staying. We spoke for about two hours about sports, America, friction amongst the autonomies, and many more topics. It was an exciting experience because it showed me where I was in my Spanish and helped me improve my skills.” Continue reading

“Studying abroad…the best decision of my life”

That's me (in the hat) with other OU and Dortmund students.

I found some spare change in my coat pocket one day: two copper-ringed Turkish Lira that are worth just over $1. Despite their limited monetary value, the coins represent so much more to me. They were shiny reminders of my short-term study abroad trip to Germany and Turkey in spring of 2010, and what turned out to be the best two weeks of my life.

And then after stopping by Study Abroad 2010 Fair, I realize that these shorter trips, along with OU’s semester and year-long programs, have had the same effect on many OU students and alumni.


Listen to OU student Mariya Marvakova, originally from Bulgaria, explain how she benefited from studying abroad.

“Honestly, studying abroad was the best decision of my life,” echoed Jennifer Meadows ’11. She shared her experience traveling to Greece with one of Oglethorpe’s short-term study abroad groups, as well as her adventures in Australia while completing a long-term program through Arcadia University.

As part of a panel of 11 students and professors, she and her fellow panelists led a lively discussion about study abroad, with an audience of more than 40 students. Her testimony about living and working in the land down under, seeing animals indigenous to Australia and eating kangaroo kept the discussion colorful and unique. Also in attendance were Florian Siedlarek, visiting professor of German (Dortmund TU), Suzanne Bray from Lillie, France, and OU alum James McClung ’98, associate director of UGA at Oxford Study Abroad Program.

Spanish major John Burke ’11 is studying abroad in Madrid, Spain: “The student who will undergo the real life-changing experience is the one who makes a true effort to completely immerse his or herself into the culture, study and practice hard in order to learn the language, get out of the house and see all that there is to see, meet as many people as possible and make a living wherever he or she is. It’s not about what studying abroad really is, but rather how a student lives it.”

Oglethorpe offers plenty of study abroad options, from short-term group trips to semester and year-long trips for students who want to explore other cultures alone.  Oglethorpe students can take these trips for credit, and best of all, when they travel to any of Oglethorpe’s Exchange Partner Schools, they can apply their financial aid  to their study there.  In effect, whatever they pay at Oglethorpe is what they pay at their exchange school.  Through this exchange program, hundreds of Oglethorpe students have made their marks at schools in Europe, Asia, and South America.

“It’s really overwhelming at first considering the fact that you meet people, and you think ‘I speak English and they speak English, but….for some reason we’re not really understanding each other!’ recalled Jennifer. “But everyone’s really nice and understanding. You realize that, just like everything else, it’s just a process. Anything that is new and different is going to be intimidating at first, but you’ll catch on rather quickly.”