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Fulbright in Korea brings promise of opportunities for UW-Eau Claire

| Julie Poquette

Editor's note: Colleen Marchwick, interim lead in UW-Eau Claire's Center for International Education, shares what she learned as a recent participant in a Fulbright program in the Republic of South Korea. South Korea is one of the countries in which study-abroad programs are available for UW-Eau Claire students. Learn more about study-abroad opportunities during the Study Abroad Fair from 2-5 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 30, in the Ojibwe Ballroom of Davies Center.


Colleen Marchwick knows the value of international education, both personally and through the transformation she sees in students who experience it.

For Marchwick, recently named the interim lead in UW-Eau Claire's Center for International Education, a Fulbright Scholar Program award last spring allowed her to expand her professional knowledge about the higher education system in the Republic of Korea. What she learned will help CIE professionals better advise students about study abroad in that country and contribute to UW-Eau Claire's strategic goal of internationalization.

An international career in the making

Marchwick's 15-year career in international education, which has included serving as a study-abroad coordinator at UW-Eau Claire since 2003, was a natural development following international experiences that began in high school.

"I've always been interested in meeting people from around the world," Marchwick said. "In high school, I hung out with the international exchange students; in college, I had a close group of international friends. However, my study-abroad experience in France as an undergraduate and then my Peace Corps experience in Morocco really solidified my desire to pursue an international career."

Marchwick, who holds a bachelor's degree in history and French from St. Catherine University and a master of arts degree in applied linguistics from Ohio University, worked in international education at Washington State University and at the Chicago regional office of the Peace Corps before joining UW-Eau Claire. Marchwick was instrumental in establishing UW-Eau Claire's International Fellows Program, which enables faculty and undergraduate students to participate in collaborative research projects in international locations.

The opportunities for learning and the students are what keep Marchwick engaged in international education.

"In my role, I'm always learning about new places and systems of education," Marchwick said. "I love working with the students - helping them identify a program that meets their academic, professional and/or personal needs. I love seeing the growth in them when they return to campus."

Fulbright opportunity knocks

Marchwick was one of just eight individuals in the U.S. selected for the Fulbright Scholar Program's two-week U.S.-Korea International Education Seminar in early summer 2015. Inspired by the positive partnership between UW-Eau Claire and Ajou University in South Korea, Marchwick applied for the Fulbright program as an opportunity to improve upon her knowledge of education systems in that country. She also has a special professional interest in actively promoting study abroad in nontraditional destinations, including eastern Asia.

Marchwick recently shared what she learned during her Fulbright program in the Republic of Korea:

Q. What was it like spending time in South Korea? Was there anything you learned that surprised you?

A. I had a very positive experience in South Korea, which matched my experience working with Anjou University, our longtime exchange partner. It was that positive experience with Ajou University that prompted me to apply for the Fulbright opportunity. Korea is a very modern, industrialized country with all the amenities we're used to in the U.S. In fact, Koreans probably have better Wi-Fi access than we do. It's a fascinating mix of the traditional and modern. One day while walking around Seoul, I saw a traditional music and dance performance in a historical neighborhood; and a few hours later, I saw a K-pop performance by a girl group in front of a megamall. I learned so much that is difficult to detail it all.

A surprising thing for me was the spirit of service that existed at Korean universities. After their own rise out of poverty after the Korean War, Korean universities are giving back to under-resourced countries in the world through volunteerism, entrepreneurship training, scholarships, etc. Another surprising thing is that Korea is facing a significant decline in their birthrate, which means Korean universities are very interested in recruiting international students to study in Korea. Although the U.S. still receives a large number of Korean students, U.S. universities are also competing against Korean universities, especially in attracting U.S. students.

Q. Why is UW-Eau Claire's goal of campus internationalization an important one, and how will your Fulbright experience help efforts toward that goal?

A. Often when people discuss internationalization, the focus is on student mobility: How many UW-Eau Claire students are studying abroad? How many international students are studying at UW-Eau Claire? However, institutional relationships that facilitate student mobility are only a small part of a comprehensive internationalization plan. Comprehensive internationalization is multi-faceted and seeks to imbue international content or experiences in all aspects of university life: curricular, co-curricular, faculty/staff development, assessment and evaluation, community engagement, and the mission and strategic planning of the institution.

Campus internationalization is important because so many of the issues students will encounter have international or transnational components - trade, climate change, disease epidemics, human migration, crime and national security. An internationalized curriculum and campus will help students be informed citizens, and hopefully some will become agents of change.

My Fulbright in Korea exposed me to new ideas that could assist in promoting internationalization on campus. For example, Kyungpook National University in Daegu had an interesting program where international and Korean students apply for funding to complete a project or experience together and then submit a report about what it was like working across cultures. KNU also had an interesting internship opportunity for their students to intern at U.S. military bases so that they might have an international experience in Korea.

Q. What are the most important takeaways from your Fulbright experience in South Korea?

A. One of my most important takeaways is that higher education is really a global marketplace. Not only is the U.S. competing with Korea and other countries for international students, but the U.S. also is competing with other countries for U.S. students. Many countries like Korea are developing courses and full degree programs in English in order to attract more international students, including U.S. Americans, for full degree programs at both the undergraduate and graduate/professional level. As state support dwindles in the U.S., places like Korea become more attractive to U.S. students, because they offer competitive costs at world-class institutions.

Q. You've talked about "promoting equity in student mobility" as a special professional interest of yours. What exactly does this mean and why is it important, and how does it relate to your interest in the Fulbright opportunity in South Korea?

A. There are a variety of inequities in student mobility. However, in the context of my Fulbright to Korea, the inequity is the huge disparity in the number of Koreans coming to the United States versus the number of U.S. Americans studying in Korea. According to Open Doors 2014, Korea is the third largest country of origin for international students coming to the United States: A total of 68,047 Korean students studied in the U.S. in 2013-14. On the other hand, South Korea ranked 19th among destination for U.S. study abroad students: A total of 3,042 U.S. students studied in Korea in 2013-14. For me, it's important to promote equity in partnerships and student mobility, so as an institution we make a conscious effort to promote study abroad in countries that send students to the U.S. Through my Fulbright, I hope to be a better advocate for study in Korea and share what I've learned so others can also advocate for study in Korea.