Academic Exploration: My Studies in the Sejong Korea Scholars Program and Korean Peninsula
The following reflection is a guest post written by Michelle Murcia, an alumna of the 2021 Sejong Korea Scholars Program.
Among the blank screens and muted microphones that plagued remote high school learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, I enrolled in the Sejong Korea Scholars Program (SKSP) at the Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education (SPICE) and found a completely opposite learning experience.
My passion for Korean history and geopolitics first began when I learned the Korean alphabet system, Hangul, in my history books for Advanced Placement World History. My class, however, only covered the Han Chinese Dynasty briefly before moving on to Europe. Upon asking if we would return to the Asian continent, my teacher hastily replied that we already covered what we “needed to know to pass the test.”
I needed to learn more than what my classroom provided. Then I discovered SKSP, which provided an opportunity for me to learn from top Korea scholars about various perspectives of Korean history and more. SKSP taught me the rich history of Korea that is not covered by the limited high school academic curricula. After being admitted to the program, I was also honored to accept a scholarship that covered the tuition, given my status as a low-income student.
Classes swiftly started in the spring semester. We received textbooks, log-in information, and a warm welcome. I met the faces of my peers as they voiced their passions and motivations leading them to SKSP. Alongside these top students representing 13 states, I found a rigorous environment and yet never once felt “less than” any of my peers.
Our weekly seminars followed in a highly organized manner and had exceptional professors from across the country. We began with the three ancient kingdoms: Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla, and then delved into post-1900s Korea, Colonial Korean history, the Korean War, the Miracle on the Han River, and the nation’s final emergence as a trillion-dollar economy.
Korean economics was especially intriguing. SKSP allowed me to converse live with leading experts like Professor Danny Leipziger from George Washington University. In his lecture, he described the factors for South Korea’s economic expansion and how they contributed to the nation’s unprecedented global accomplishments. This topic strongly influenced my final research paper on the current housing crisis in Seoul, in which I analyzed how the collaboration of public and private sectors in South Korea created a unique Jeonse, also known as “Key Money Deposit.”
On top of these experiences, the true learning came from our peer review process for our research papers. I read outstanding papers from all of my exemplary peers and observed how each student developed a unique style of incorporating evidence to defend their thesis. Some incorporated game theory and U.S sanctions in their papers.
SKSP provided an otherwise unattainable learning opportunity in terms of intercultural literacy, historical perspective, collaboration, critical thinking, and global awareness. It gave me the chance to develop into an intelligent global citizen, who is able to comprehend alternative views and pursue interests in a career in ambassadorship. As I attend university, I will pursue a double major in Korean Studies and Language and Engineering.