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Students see God's world through the eyes of Nicaraguans and Koreans

By Sarah Groneck

Studying abroad while in college is as popular as ever, and two new programs are giving Dordt students more choices as to where to study.

Dordt College students not only had the opportunity to interact with Korean students, eat Korean food, and learn about Korean history and culture, they also got to dress in traditional Korean garb.

Dordt College students not only had the opportunity to interact with Korean students, eat Korean food, and learn about Korean history and culture, they also got to dress in traditional Korean garb.

The Nicaraguan Studies Program and Gen 255: Korean Culture through Religion and Music began this year.

“It is exciting to have our own semester abroad,” said foreign languages professor Socorro Woodbury about the Nicaraguan Studies Program. “It’s the first in Latin America that is a semester long, and it’s Dordt’s own program.”

The Nicaraguan Studies Program was the brainchild of Dr. Rockne McCarthy, former Vice President for Academic Affairs. Corinne Hentges, coordinator of off-campus programs and community-based learning, and Woodbury helped dream up and set up the program.

Separately or as a group, Woodbury, McCarthy, and Hentges traveled to Nicaragua three times in preparation for the program. They hand-picked instructors for the program and also selected the textbooks that students would use during the semester. They also worked out a partnership between the Nicaraguan Studies Program and the Nehemiah Center for Transformational Development, a Nicaraguan-based organization that strives to train leaders and help the surrounding community grow closer to God. Students spend much of their time at the Nehemiah Center, working with locals and becoming more in tune with God’s plan for their lives.

“We have students in agriculture, Spanish, and ESL teachers down there right now,” said Woodbury.

The seven students in this fall’s inaugural semester live with host families in Leon, a town located two hours from the capital city of Managua. They are taking courses such as Nicaraguan Culture and Society or Worldview and Societal Transformation, and all are required to take a Spanish course.

“I know that some of them were frustrated initially with having to speak Spanish all the time,” said Woodbury. “But now that the semester is in full swing, they seem to be enjoying it more.”

Besides studying and working with local residents, students will visit Costa Rica and Honduras during their semester. They are also spending time in Managua and will be doing much sight-seeing.

Woodbury hopes to open the program to students from other colleges as well.

The second new program this year, Korean Culture through Religion and Music, sent three Dordt students to the capital city of Seoul.

“It took a long time to get this program running,” said Theology Professor Jay Shim. “It was the first time that Dordt has done a summer program like this.”

Three Dordt students, seniors Elizabeth Walters and Troy Leusink and junior Jake Kloet, were joined by three Northwestern College students.

Through the program, students attended two universities in Korea: Chong-Sin University in Seoul, the capitol city of Korea, and Kosin University in Busan, the southernmost part of Korea.

The North American students spent the three weeks at Chong-Sin University living, working, and eating with Chong-Sin students. Interacting with the students allowed the Dordt and Northwestern students to learn some Korean and the Chong-Sin students to practice their English skills.

“By the end they were talking and giggling everywhere,” mused Shim. “We once got yelled at on the subway because they were being so loud.”

One of the most interesting experiences that the students had was when they stayed at a Buddhist temple for Temple’s Day. “We woke up at 3:30 in the morning to do meditations,” he said. “If you fell asleep, then a Buddhist monk would hit you with a soft bamboo stick. Most of the students got hit on the head two or three times.," Shim said.

Both of these programs fulfill Dordt’s cross cultural graduation requirement, and both give students unique opportunities to see and experience another part of God’s world.