To know a culture is to know a language. This is the premise behind one Blugold’s unique service-learning project. Ryan Kim, a senior IS major at UW-Eau Claire, spends his Sundays at the Korean United Methodist Church in Eau Claire, teaching the Korean language and culture to young church goers.
Due to the miniscule size of Eau Claire’s Korean community, it isn’t far off to assume their culture could be easily lost. Ryan explains, “Eau Claire has such a small Korean community, there isn’t enough opportunity to get to know about Korean culture. I wanted to provide a chance to let them know where they are originally from.”
Ryan is specifically working with children who have been adopted from Korea, and are now living in the United States. These adopted children have become central to the program, and they hold a special place in Ryan’s heart. He explains, “It’s very rewarding to be able to do something important for someone, and to see how enthusiastic these kids are to learn. Being able to witness the transformation of the adopted children and the support from their parents has been an amazing experience.” In addition to teaching children adopted from Korea, Ryan has also had the opportunity to open up his sessions to anybody who takes interest in Korean culture.
When asked about the challenges he has faced while volunteering as a tutor, he opened up about the extreme lack of community knowledge and how surprised he was by the enthusiasm from his students. “[I was] surprised by how enthusiastic the students were to learn about Korean language and culture. When I was preparing the courses, I needed to think deeply about how I could teach them more effectively, because most of them didn't have any information about Korea.”
Perhaps the most heroic aspect of Ryan’s service-learning experience is his willingness to work with a religious organization that he doesn’t necessarily subscribe to. Through this, Ryan has embodied what service-learning is about, in its truest form: the willingness to put our differences aside and work together for the greater good of the community.