Canadian Student Delves into Modern Korean History with Yonsei
-Kyrie Vermette (Canadian / University of Toronto)
For Kyrie Vermette, now completing the last semester of her masters in East Asian studies at the University of Toronto, studying at Yonsei was a natural fit. Her curiosity about Korea began in high school, when an exchange student from Korea joined her class. Becoming fast friends, Kyrie travelled with her to Korea during spring break, and the experience left a lasting impression on her. They parted ways, and Kyrie went on to study medieval European history at SUNY Buffalo State. However, her interest in Asia soon was rekindled by an elective course and grew into a Korean studies minor, study abroad, and intensive language programs at Ewha University.
With nearly three years of total study experience in Korea raising her Korean ability to an advanced level, Kyrie can now take courses about early modern Korean history in Korean alongside Yonsei University students. Overcoming the initial hardships of the sometimes difficult hanja and rhetoric, she believes studying Korean history directly through the lens of Korean scholars is a valuable opportunity to diversify academic perspective.
Yonsei has a long-standing close relationship with the University of Toronto. In fact, Yonsei alumni donated a pagoda to the University of Toronto in memory of the Canadian missionaries who helped establish Yonsei University and Severance Hospital, Dr. Oliver R. Avison, Dr. Stanley H. Martin, and Dr. Florence J. Murray. A symbol of Korean tradition, it stands in a park in the center of campus for passersby to learn of Canada’s history with Yonsei. That kinship continues to grow today as the Korean wave has been influencing the enrollment rates in Korean studies courses, according to Kyrie. Every semester, courses are filled to the maximum by students who want to know more about the country of their favorite celebrities. Though not all of these students will pursue advanced courses in the same field, Kyrie hopes that the large volume of attention will generate more scholars like herself.
As a new student at Yonsei, Kyrie did not know anyone on campus and was afraid that it would be hard to make new friends. There is a false stereotype that international students are very outgoing—but in fact, many are introverted and not confident about starting conversations. This was the case for Kyrie. It was her Yonsei classmates who began to greet her with a simple “Hello,” or sent her off with a “be careful on your way home!” that made Kyrie feel less like an outsider and more like part of the community. To include students like herself in the Yonsei family, she invites Yonsei students to say hello, whether in Korean or English, to the international students they encounter at school. It takes only a few words to say hello, but it could make a world of a difference.