From the creation of the Korean Direct Enrollment plus Internship program to her recent guide to help international educators assimilate to American schools, Professor Julie Damron has been taking language education one step further. Her work with BYU Independent Study and help from her own students has helped her blend language teaching and culture into an international success.
PROVO, Utah (June 17, 2015)—Learning a language can be a daunting undertaking, but having a professor who truly wants their students to learn and love the language can make the process far less of a chore and more of an adventure. Julie Damron, assistant professor in the Department of Asian and Near Eastern Languages, has made this the focus of her work and teaching. Last year, Damron saw the need for a direct enrollment program in Korea after her Korean 101 and 102 students expressed interest in having an immersion experience that was longer than a few short weeks. They “wanted to live and work there. [They] wanted language immersion, cultural immersion and workplace immersion. They wanted to try life in Korea on their own,” Damron said.
When Damron asked her students what they thought would be the optimal immersion experience, they responded that they wanted to study and do an internship in Korea for an entire semester. From this, the Korean Direct Enrollment plus Internship program was born and, in the fall of 2014, sent its first batch of fifteen students to attend courses held at Kyung Hee University (KHU) on the Suwon campus – just outside of Seoul, South Korea.
Through the program, students are able to spend an entire semester at KHU. All classes that students enroll in fulfill requirements for BYU’s Asian Studies and Korean majors and minors, as well as a few classes fulfilling requirements for the T.E.S.O.L. minor and certificate. In addition, in an effort to enhance language and cultural understanding, BYU students participate in various university-sponsored activities such as the annual play and the intramural soccer league. They also live with Koreans in the university dorms. “You can’t speak Korean well if you don’t understand the culture,” Damron said. “They go hand in hand.”
At BYU, most students taking Korean courses are doing it for fun. “[Students] love Korean culture, they love K-pop, they love the dramas, they love the music, they love the culture,” Damron said. Because of this, Damron says that tying the language and culture together and helping her students experience Korea is a top priority. By attending the Korean Direct Enrollment plus Internship program, students are able to not only learn the language, but also experience Korea firsthand while partaking in the culture they already adamantly love.
Along with the Korean Direct Enrollment plus Internship program, last year Damron created the first “BYU Blended” course in conjunction with another professor at BYU Independent Study. The course combines traditional face-to-face Korean language classes with online Korean components. The inspiration behind the blended course came after a semester when Damron’s students began discovering a plethora of teaching apps and websites for those studying Korean. Damron wanted to combine pertinent aspects of in-class learning with valuable digital and on-line learning programs.
Within the course, office hours, chat rooms, quizzes and tests are held online. Because of this, students have access to lectures and slides 24/7 and much more responsibility over their own personal learning. One day a week, class is held “online,” where students are responsible for studying new material, on their own, that would be reviewed in the classroom the next day. Damron saw this as a way to help students become more accountable for their own studies instead of relying so heavily upon her instruction. It also created a way for students to access some wonderful untapped online teaching tools. In an era of booming technology, the blended class approaches the Internet, tablets and phones as teaching tools and resources within the classroom.
Damron also recently published a book entitled, Teaching in the United States: A Guide for International Educators (2014). The inspiration for the guide came from her time spent as a graduate student at Purdue University. At that time, one of her responsibilities was to help international teaching assistants and visiting faculty transition to teaching in the American school system. Because of her work, Damron saw a need for a basic book for teachers who were new to the United States. The book is designed to help international teachers understand and appropriately respond to their experiences while they are teaching in the United States.
As of this year, Damron is working on a new book: a beginning reader for students of Korean. Because most available literature for learners of Korean falls in the intermediate or advanced level, Damron wanted to create something that would be accessible to learners everywhere who are beginning to learn how to read and write in Korean.
Through her work on the international teacher’s guide, the Direct Enrollment plus Internship program and the blended course, Damron has begun to pave the way for smoother transitions into foreign educational systems, and for the inclusion of culture and immersion in language learning, taking it one step further every day.
—Amelia Wallace (B.A. English ’15)