MINERVA VOICES

Designing Seoul: How I Create a Meaningful Student Experience Abroad

by: Anna Kim, Former City Lead, Seoul

August 31, 2018

This is my third time designing the “city as a campus” experience for Minerva students — the first in Seoul, my hometown, the second in Hyderabad for the spring semester, and, now, I’m back in Seoul, preparing for a new cohort of students to arrive.

Over the past year, I witnessed students from the Classes of 2019 and 2020 develop their leadership skills through student-driven initiatives, practice professionalism through workshops and projects with partners, and build community defined by shared values and practices. From developing mobile applications with a major technology company to exploring their limits with spicy food at Korean food markets, the Classes of 2019 and 2020 matured by continually challenging and expanding their world views. And by interacting with our students — individuals who are motivated, curious, and dedicated to becoming the best that they can be — I too was able to grow and discover many new perspectives.

This summer, the Student Experience Team in Seoul has been busy preparing for this next class, the Class of 2021, to arrive. When students land in Seoul, the vast majority will have never been to Korea. The culture shock and language barrier can be paralyzing, and, with just a few months in the city, my role is to help students acclimate quickly to their new community — from developing cultural dexterity, understanding social norms, and basic vocabulary — so that they are able to engage with the city and effectively utilize the skills they have been building. One way we accomplish this is by developing a professional community, what we call our civic partner network, to foster meaningful relationships with locals and community leaders. For example, last year, many students were interested in learning more about entrepreneurship. To help them connect with the local scene, I connected them to people who were working at start-ups, and took them to relevant conferences where they could both immerse with local professionals, and share their own bright ideas. Initiating opportunities like these not only allows students to practice the practical skills that they have been learning in classes, it also helps the students to better understand the unique culture of Seoul in ways that match their interests.

Because each cohort of students has diverse passions and professional goals than the previous classes, over the past few months, I have been identified industries, fields, and social issues that are both relevant to these interests and, also, authentically represent Seoul. In one instance, I visited Liberty, a non-governmental organization that tackles human rights challenges in North Korea. We discussed how to best introduce Minerva students to the unique North Korean relationship and how to motivate student volunteering support. I met with members of the Kakao Corporation, a communications company, to better understand their work in order to collaborate with them this coming semester in a civic project. And, at Hanyang University, I spoke with professors who shared their excitement at having Minerva students, like Florence from the previous year, back in their laboratory to conduct research. My summer has been full of meaningful connections with entrepreneurs, architects, marketers, data scientists, consultants, designers, and many others who are eager to collaborate and interact with Minerva students.

As Seoul is the first Asian city students experience in the global rotation, the incoming students are often both wary and excited about the noticeable cultural differences, language barriers, and unique opportunities. To mitigate this feeling, in addition to sourcing partners for civic projects and professional mentors, my team also designs the core experiences that provide deeper understanding of Korean everyday culture. These events, known as co-curriculars, are hosted every week and vary in context to cover the widely diverse cultural history of Korea. Last fall, for example, students volunteered at a senior citizen center, stayed overnight at a temple, and met with female leaders to learn what it was like to be a professional woman in Korea — just to name a few activities. Students strongly felt that the activities where they worked alongside local Koreans provided the best lenses for students to not only understand South Korea, but to initiate their own collaborations. One group of students teamed up with locals to organize a poetry slam; together, they practiced, rehearsed and performed a show for the students at the end of the semester. Another student worked with Green Climate Fund, a non-governmental organization fighting climate change, for her civic project during the semester, and returned to work with the organization this summer as an intern.

On the top of all these exciting projects and experiences, I make sure to secure time to listen to and develop a bond with my students. Just like how Minerva is not a typical school, this is not a typical 9–5 job. Both out in the city of Seoul and within the residence halls, I am grateful to interact with the students every day and emotionally support their experience in a new culture by providing guidance for whatever they need. This is how we build a university together, grow together, and make positive impact together.

With the semester about to begin, it is now time to make a concrete project schedule, so that the students can fully experience Seoul as a campus, from day one. Seoul has so many hidden gems of aesthetic cafes, streets, and hikes, to parks, temples, palaces, and more! I, myself, am still in the process of discovering all of the wonders of this city — and I’m very excited to continue our collective journey with the Class of 2022 when they are in Seoul.

Experience Seoul, and the full global rotation, yourself, as a Minerva student. Apply today.

Quick Facts

Name
Country
Class
Major

Social Sciences & Business

Business & Computational Sciences

Business and Social Sciences

Social Sciences and Business

Computational Sciences & Social Sciences

Computer Science & Arts and Humanities

Business and Computational Sciences

Business and Social Sciences

Natural Sciences

Arts and Humanities

Business, Social Sciences

Business & Arts and Humanities

Computational Sciences

Natural Sciences, Computer Science

Computational Sciences

Arts & Humanities

Computational Sciences, Social Sciences

Computational Sciences

Computational Sciences

Natural Sciences, Social Sciences

Social Sciences, Natural Sciences

Data Science, Statistics

Computational Sciences

Business

Computational Sciences, Data Science

Social Sciences

Natural Sciences

Business, Natural Sciences

Business, Social Sciences

Computational Sciences

Arts & Humanities, Social Sciences

Social Sciences

Computational Sciences, Natural Sciences

Natural Sciences

Computational Sciences, Social Sciences

Business, Social Sciences

Computational Sciences

Natural Sciences, Social Sciences

Social Sciences

Arts & Humanities, Social Sciences

Arts & Humanities, Social Science

Social Sciences, Business

Arts & Humanities

Computational Sciences, Social Science

Natural Sciences, Computer Science

Computational Science, Statistic Natural Sciences

Business & Social Sciences

Computational Science, Social Sciences

Social Sciences and Business

Business

Arts and Humanities

Computational Sciences

Social Sciences

Social Sciences and Computational Sciences

Social Sciences & Computational Sciences

Social Sciences & Arts and Humanities

Computational Science

Minor

Computational Science & Business

Economics

Social Sciences

Concentration

Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence & Cognition, Brain, and Behavior

Designing Societies & New Ventures

Strategic Finance & Data Science and Statistics

Brand Management and Designing Societies

Data Science & Economics

Machine Learning

Cells, Organisms, Data Science, Statistics

Arts & Literature and Historical Forces

Artificial Intelligence & Computer Science

Cells and Organisms, Mind and Emotion

Economics, Physics

Managing Operational Complexity and Strategic Finance

Global Development Studies and Brain, Cognition, and Behavior

Scalable Growth, Designing Societies

Business

Drug Discovery Research, Designing and Implementing Policies

Historical Forces, Cognition, Brain, and Behavior

Artificial Intelligence, Psychology

Designing Solutions, Data Science and Statistics

Data Science and Statistic, Theoretical Foundations of Natural Science

Strategic Finance, Politics, Government, and Society

Data Analysis, Cognition

Brand Management

Data Science and Statistics & Economics

Cognitive Science & Economics

Data Science and Statistics and Contemporary Knowledge Discovery

Internship
Higia Technologies
Project Development and Marketing Analyst Intern at VIVITA, a Mistletoe company
Business Development Intern, DoSomething.org
Business Analyst, Clean Energy Associates (CEA)

Conversation

This is my third time designing the “city as a campus” experience for Minerva students — the first in Seoul, my hometown, the second in Hyderabad for the spring semester, and, now, I’m back in Seoul, preparing for a new cohort of students to arrive.

Over the past year, I witnessed students from the Classes of 2019 and 2020 develop their leadership skills through student-driven initiatives, practice professionalism through workshops and projects with partners, and build community defined by shared values and practices. From developing mobile applications with a major technology company to exploring their limits with spicy food at Korean food markets, the Classes of 2019 and 2020 matured by continually challenging and expanding their world views. And by interacting with our students — individuals who are motivated, curious, and dedicated to becoming the best that they can be — I too was able to grow and discover many new perspectives.

This summer, the Student Experience Team in Seoul has been busy preparing for this next class, the Class of 2021, to arrive. When students land in Seoul, the vast majority will have never been to Korea. The culture shock and language barrier can be paralyzing, and, with just a few months in the city, my role is to help students acclimate quickly to their new community — from developing cultural dexterity, understanding social norms, and basic vocabulary — so that they are able to engage with the city and effectively utilize the skills they have been building. One way we accomplish this is by developing a professional community, what we call our civic partner network, to foster meaningful relationships with locals and community leaders. For example, last year, many students were interested in learning more about entrepreneurship. To help them connect with the local scene, I connected them to people who were working at start-ups, and took them to relevant conferences where they could both immerse with local professionals, and share their own bright ideas. Initiating opportunities like these not only allows students to practice the practical skills that they have been learning in classes, it also helps the students to better understand the unique culture of Seoul in ways that match their interests.

Because each cohort of students has diverse passions and professional goals than the previous classes, over the past few months, I have been identified industries, fields, and social issues that are both relevant to these interests and, also, authentically represent Seoul. In one instance, I visited Liberty, a non-governmental organization that tackles human rights challenges in North Korea. We discussed how to best introduce Minerva students to the unique North Korean relationship and how to motivate student volunteering support. I met with members of the Kakao Corporation, a communications company, to better understand their work in order to collaborate with them this coming semester in a civic project. And, at Hanyang University, I spoke with professors who shared their excitement at having Minerva students, like Florence from the previous year, back in their laboratory to conduct research. My summer has been full of meaningful connections with entrepreneurs, architects, marketers, data scientists, consultants, designers, and many others who are eager to collaborate and interact with Minerva students.

As Seoul is the first Asian city students experience in the global rotation, the incoming students are often both wary and excited about the noticeable cultural differences, language barriers, and unique opportunities. To mitigate this feeling, in addition to sourcing partners for civic projects and professional mentors, my team also designs the core experiences that provide deeper understanding of Korean everyday culture. These events, known as co-curriculars, are hosted every week and vary in context to cover the widely diverse cultural history of Korea. Last fall, for example, students volunteered at a senior citizen center, stayed overnight at a temple, and met with female leaders to learn what it was like to be a professional woman in Korea — just to name a few activities. Students strongly felt that the activities where they worked alongside local Koreans provided the best lenses for students to not only understand South Korea, but to initiate their own collaborations. One group of students teamed up with locals to organize a poetry slam; together, they practiced, rehearsed and performed a show for the students at the end of the semester. Another student worked with Green Climate Fund, a non-governmental organization fighting climate change, for her civic project during the semester, and returned to work with the organization this summer as an intern.

On the top of all these exciting projects and experiences, I make sure to secure time to listen to and develop a bond with my students. Just like how Minerva is not a typical school, this is not a typical 9–5 job. Both out in the city of Seoul and within the residence halls, I am grateful to interact with the students every day and emotionally support their experience in a new culture by providing guidance for whatever they need. This is how we build a university together, grow together, and make positive impact together.

With the semester about to begin, it is now time to make a concrete project schedule, so that the students can fully experience Seoul as a campus, from day one. Seoul has so many hidden gems of aesthetic cafes, streets, and hikes, to parks, temples, palaces, and more! I, myself, am still in the process of discovering all of the wonders of this city — and I’m very excited to continue our collective journey with the Class of 2022 when they are in Seoul.

Experience Seoul, and the full global rotation, yourself, as a Minerva student. Apply today.