Devotion to community values at home and abroad
Over ten years ago in 2005, Hyundai Motor Company opened an automobile factory in Montgomery, Alabama. Like many other investment ventures by Korean conglomerates in America, the factory site brought many jobs and economic growth to their host cities. But another unexpected byproduct of these manufacturing plants is the emergence of Koreatowns and the infusion of Korean culture as dispatched workers form their own niche in the United States. In recent years, locals also have come to appreciate the cuisine, entertainment, and athletics that are now easily accessible through Koreatowns.
Alexandria Brooks, a medical student at Alabama State University, decided to travel to South Korea this past summer to satisfy a growing curiosity in Korean culture. At home, she was already familiar with Korean basics—she taught herself hangeul, the Korean alphabet, she watches Korean dramas, and her friends listen to k-pop. She even boasts a green belt in taekwondo.
Visiting Yonsei University through the CIEE, an American study abroad and cultural exchange organization, Alexandria was given a whirlwind tour of Seoul and Korea. She and her fellow CIEE students first encountered Seoul through a scavenger hunt through Insadong, were treated to exclusive tours of the DDP and MBC studios in Sangamdong, where they were shown Korea’s technological prowess in virtual reality and holographic imaging. The group then were swept into traditional life by staying overnight at a traditional hanok village, paired with trying on hanbok and practicing proper tea ceremony etiquette.
Alexandria’s spirit is akin to Yonsei’s own community spirit. At her home school, she is an active leader in honors programs and community service organizations. Naturally, coming to Seoul, she wanted to do more than just observe; Alexandria wanted to contribute. With the help of CIEE, she was matched with an elementary school where she spent time every week enriching the education of local schoolchildren.
Alexandria’s ambitions to travel abroad to immerse herself in Korean culture came from a decision she made while on an out-of-state internship in Massachusetts. She realized then the importance of experiencing different environments and diverse lifestyles when working in a hospital setting. Especially in large cities, medical professionals need to be equipped with the understanding and cultural awareness that patients of all backgrounds require in times of adversity and stress. She has then made it her mission to travel to as many continents as possible during her
studies in order to prepare for a career in medical care. Her experience at Yonsei’s YISS has been a firm building block in her resolve to become a caring professional and global citizen.