Hyung Min Kim, who goes by Justin, is among a group of 14 students from South Korea that recently arrived at Central Washington University.
“People are so friendly,” Kim said about the CWU community. “The professors are so passionate.”
Kim plans to study mechanical engineering and eventually work in the aerospace industry. He hopes to land an internship with Boeing.
Kim and the rest of his cohort will finish their four-year degrees at CWU as part of the school’s new 1+3 agreement with Chung-Ang University in Seoul, South Korea. The agreement was arranged through the KORUS (Korea-US) Education Institute.
Chung-Ang University is much busier than CWU, said Kim, who described the Ellensburg campus as cozy and peaceful. He learned English as a 6-year-old thanks to his father’s passion for the language and for studying abroad. “My family loves for me to have a new challenge,” Kim said.
As part of the 1+3 program, qualified Korean students spend the first year of college in their home country and then finish the last three years in the United States. While studying in Seoul, the students take classes equivalent to CWU general education courses and English as a Second Language courses to prepare them for studying in American classrooms. The arrangement eases their transition to Ellensburg and helps set them up for success.
“The Korean students help diversify our campus,” said Mike Launius, assistant vice president for International Studies and Programs. “Upping the international exposure is good for all our students and faculty. It’s a real advantage for students in Ellensburg to study alongside people from all over the world. That’s who they’ll be working with and competing with [after college].”
The 14 Korean students arrived at CWU on January 3 and are in various fields of study, including accounting, theater arts, aviation, marketing, business, education, and psychology.
“We like that—they’re headed for a wide variety of programs,” Launius said. The students will benefit from a welcoming campus and small-class personalized attention at CWU, he added.
Marilyn Levine, CWU’s provost and vice president for Academic and Student Life, greeted the students in her office last week. Together they sang a Korean soccer song and enjoyed homemade cookies.
“It is a special honor and a special joy to welcome you,” Levine told the group. “I am very excited to see you.”
Levine visited the KORUS office and traveled to Seoul to help arrange the 1+3 agreement between CWU and Chung-Ang University. Launius, who speaks Korean, helped recruit Chung-Ang University students to come to CWU. Bang-Soon Yoon, professor and chair of the CWU Political Science Department, also met with Chung-Ang University students and their parents about the program.
International students pay full out-of-state tuition of about $19,400 per year. They support the local economy by shopping at Ellensburg businesses.
Through the program, Korean students gain a global edge by completing their undergraduate work in the United States. They learn English at the native speaker’s level and attain worldwide networking skills.
“Our goal in bringing them here is to help them succeed,” Launius said. “They’re pretty courageous to make the trip. Their lives will never be the same.”
The value of studying abroad is being realized more every year. During the 2012-13 academic year, schools in the United States enrolled a record number of international students—819,644 throughout the country, according to the Institute of International Education.
Washington State is ranked 11th in the nation in terms of its number of foreign students. The state hosted 22,877 foreign students who spent an estimated $643 million statewide in 2013.
“Washington State is probably one of the most heavily impacted states when it comes to global economics,” Launius said, noting that Ellensburg’s agriculture industry relies heavily on exports. “Our economy, even here in Ellensburg, is connected to trans-Pacific trade.”
Photos: Marilyn Levine, Central Washington University's provost and vice president for Academic and Student Life, speaks with a group of Korean students in her office. The students will finish their four-year degrees at CWU as part of the university's new 1+3 agreement with Chung-Ang University in Seoul, South Korea. (Rich Villacres / CWU)
Media contact: Barb Arnott, CWU Public Affairs, 509-963-2841, Barnott@cwu.edu