Tensions of Local and Global: South Korean Students Navigating and Maximizing US College Life
Keywords:internationalization, linguistic diversity, US higher education, study abroad, student organization
For over a decade, a particular transnational educational migration trend in Korea, known as jogi yuhak or “Early Study Abroad,” has been sending thousands of pre-college students to various parts of the globe (e.g. U.S., Canada, Australia, Singapore) with hopes that young Koreans will acquire “native-like” English and become “global elites.” Many of these students then enter U.S. universities that are built upon liberal ideals of diversity and individualism in theory, but offer in practice an indifferent climate towards racial and linguistic difference. Drawing on a two-year ethnographic study of Korean undergraduate students at the University of Illinois, the U.S. public higher education institution with the largest number of international students, the author examines interviews, observations and artifacts collected from the Korean Student Association (KSA), a registered student organization with over 100 staff members mostly with jogi yuhak experience. As the global university offers a rather unfavorable academic climate for racially and linguistically diverse students as well as heightens the failures of literacy as a way to “global elite.” It is in this context that KSA members work to build, reestablish, and preserve their identities and create conditions of respect through practices of localization: The students foster their “Koreanness” not only through Korean language use but also through institutionally rebuilding Korean social practices and networks strained by their many years abroad. Students are able to negotiate their liberal, or rather neoliberal college dreams in seemingly Korean ways of language and literacy that ultimately help them ground their identity as U.S. college students.
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