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Sengelmann, Tran take study tour to Korea

Photo courtesy of Sasha Sengelmann
STUDYING ABROAD Sengelmann and Tran stand in front of an exhibit during a visit to the Hyundai Motor Company headquarters, one of many group activities during their study tour to South Korea.

By Kaylee Chan | Editor in Chief

   Senior Sasha Sengelmann and junior Jenny Tran visited South Korea on April 2-12 as a part of Project Bridge, a program aiming to introduce Korean culture to students in the United States. In addition to a free all-inclusive study tour to South Korea, the program also consists of several workshops and culminates with the creation of a presentation relating to South Korea.

   Project Bridge began in 1993 in response to the 1992 Los Angeles riots, in an effort to ease racial tensions between local Korean and African American communities by sending African American students on trips to Korea. Since then, the program has expanded to include youth ambassadors of all ethnicities and has branches in New York and Montana in addition to Los Angeles, with eight students from each branch being selected per year.

   The trip itself included an overnight stay at Seonunsa Temple, a visit to the Korean Demilitarized Zone, and tours of prominent Korean companies such as Hyundai, as well as other informational and recreational excursions.

   “My most enjoyable part was that there was this one program that had a bunch of people ranging from elementary kids to university,” recounted Tran. “Basically, I went with elementary kids, and I hung out with them. We went to E-World in Daegu and I rode rides with them[…] Even though we had a big cultural barrier and language barrier, we still managed to have fun together.”

   The youth ambassadors also visited high schools in Korea and met with students there.

   “That was, I think, a huge part of the whole cultural exchange aspect of the program,” Sengelmann said. “They wanted us to get to know what Korean education and Korean life is like and the Korean students wanted to meet us too.”

   Some of the cross-cultural interactions were touching, others humorously unexpected.

   “There was one guy in my group who [the Korean high school students] thought was Tom Holland,” Sengelmann laughed. “He does not look like Tom Holland.”

   Along with meeting with high schoolers in Korea, getting to know other students in the program was a notable part of the week-long trip.

   “Overall, it was really fun[…] It’s not like I’m going to see [the other students] again unless I’m in like New York or Montana, but there were people I really want to be around,” said Tran. “It’s a really memorable experience.”

   Sengelmann and Tran found out about the program through Gabrielino’s College and Career Center and applied in late October through a process that required letters of recommendation, short answer questions, and an interview, among other requirements. The first workshop began in mid-December and continued every other week on Saturdays, allowing program members to gain extensive knowledge about Korean culture in preparation for the week-long trip.

   “We would learn about Korean history, like its economy[…] how it’s one of the fastest growing economies in Asia,” said Sengelmann. “We learn a lot about its annexations and the wars- the wars were a huge focal point, obviously, because the Korean Wars divided the peninsula into North and South.”

   The Los Angeles branch of Project Bridge is sponsored by the Pacific Century Institute, which covered the costs of travel and hosted the workshops at their headquarters. Each session lasted about four to five hours and ended with a written reflection on the topic at hand.

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Sengelmann, Tran take study tour to Korea