Greetings! I currently teach Korean language and culture at the National University of Colombia (UNAL) in Bogota, Colombia. I arrived here last August, filled with excitement upon the realization of my long-held dream of teaching Korean studies in a Spanish-speaking country as a KF Visiting Professor. Bogota was chilly in August, like early winter, and I soon learned that I could feel the four seasons here, from spring to early winter, all in one day.
At the university, I teach Elective in Korean Language 1 and 2 and Introduction to Korean Culture, which are offered to students as general elective subjects. I was quite surprised to find my first class to be fully booked even before it started. When the class actually began, many students who hadn’t been able to enroll came to the classroom and waited for additional enrollment to open up. The school authorities established one more section of Elective in Korean Language 1 and increased the classroom quota to accommodate the maximum number of students possible. Sixty students attended the Introduction to Korean Culture class, 10 more than the original quota, and those students brought energy and passion to every class session. I taught more than 120 students in total during the semester, and in the first semester of this year, my class quota was expanded even further. At the moment, I’m having a great time teaching more than 140 students in an even better environment.
Students here learn Korean language and culture for various reasons. Most notable are those who want to go to Korea to study, either as exchange students or on their own. Most of these students have been motivated in their interest of Korea and the Korean language by Hallyu, the Korean Wave. My role is to encourage them to develop their interest into more than simple curiosity so that they can take up further study of Korea-related subjects.
In addition to my regular classes, I try to provide my students with as much access to Korea and Korean studies resources as possible. Last semester, I organized Korean culture programs and lectures by invited lecturers. The most popular event was a Korean calligraphy lesson held during our Hangeul Day celebrations. A great number of students from various departments came and had fun using brushes to write their Korean names on Hanji, Korean paper. In Colombia, both Korean studies and Asian studies are in their infancy. At the National University of Colombia, Chinese and Japanese language classes are available, but culture-related classes are still growing. There is no department specializing in Asian studies.
Under these circumstances, I feel very proud that the Korean culture classes are so popular and are enrolled in beyond capacity every semester. When our class quotas are filled far before the deadline, and when I see students participate in Korean cultural events with such enthusiasm, I see a great potential for Korean studies here. At present, I’m preparing for the opening of a Korean studies section within the university library, as well as for the opening of Sarangchae, the Korean studies research institute. I do my job happily and graciously each day, with high expectations that these efforts will help the students deepen their interest in and create greater ardor for Korean culture, eventually serving to promote Korean studies.