Jeju Mayor Kim Sang Oh (head of table) welcomes SSU students and their political science professor David McCuan to his city which has a sister-city relationship to Santa Rosa. McCuan is sitting left of the Mayor. At right of him are Joe Noonan, Erica Cuevas, Ethan Brown and Holly Szlosek.
The street sign along the entrance to JeJu City in South Korea said it all - "We love having you here." Not surprising for an island dubbed the Hawaii of Korea.
Four SSU political science students and their professor - David McCuan - found a warm welcome from their Korean hosts as they began a three week international summer school program at Jeju National University (JNU) recently.
It is a rich cultural immersion experience for them all and another connection for SSU as well as nearby Santa Rosa which boasts JeJu as its sister city.
The SSU students - Ethan Brown, Erica Cuevas, Joe Noonan and Holly Szlosek - are working with their Korean colleagues learning about U.S. elections and political behavior while the Koreans provide a useful comparative context with their own elections.
All the students enrolled have strong English skills, are active participants, and keen observers of American politics, says McCuan. They are each living in a dorm at JNU with a Korean roommate who show them around Jeju City and act as a host.
In Korea, McCuan taught the condensed version of a class he teaches at SSU and was chosen because both Korea and the United States are having elections this coming fall. The class focuses on how voters make decisions and the role of new campaigning techniques to generate voter engagement.
Jeju National University created a program which invited professors from three colleges in the United States to teach summer courses to both Korean students and a group of their own students. Besides SSU, the professors include those from Richard Stockton College in New Jersey Delaware State University.
In the future, SSU is looking at additional courses in other areas such as business and economics, nursing, biology, education, as well as politics.
"From our class sessions, to the cultural program exposing us to the rich diversity of Jeju island, to just day to day living in a vibrant atmosphere, this three week International Summer School program is just the first step in growing a stronger, regular exchange program between our two universities," says McCuan.
"The food, sites, sounds, the "pulse" of Jeju and it's University is just an incredible experience for us all. We can't wait to get started on the next chapter," McCuan said.
Erica Cuevas - who conducted research regarding political elections and the Latino electorate in her classes at SSU - said the experience was life changing.
"I have never met such nice, considerate, and hospitable people," she said.
"I have greatly enjoyed learning about the Korean culture, and there was no better way to learn about it than to go out and explore Jeju City with my Korean classmates. Being able to explain U.S. elections and political voting behavior to Korean students is a true test of our own understanding of the material."
To follow their experiences both in and outside the classroom, visit Joe Noonan's blog at http://joesjunioryearabroad.blogspot.com. The group returns July 14.
Left: Joe Noonan and Erica Cuevas offer gifts to the Mayor.
Right: Holly Szlosek with Korean host Kim at a JeJu restaurant.