Internationalization: Study Abroad Students Learn About Global Education

Wednesday, January 14 2009

Jan. 14, 2009 Photo is available at Written by Cheryl Dudley MOSCOW, Idaho – Keonghee Tao Han always has wanted to see different peoples, languages, countries, and learn new customs and different ways of doing things. This curiosity spawned her interest in becoming an educator, and she moved from Korea to the U.S. to teach. After a decade, she observed that the number of linguistically, culturally, ethnically and racially different students is growing throughout the U.S. Statistics indicate that by the year 2050, half of the student population will be students of color. Globally, more than 50 percent of students already are diverse. This significant demographic change, Tao said, is something teachers may not be prepared to handle. An assistant professor in the University of Idaho's College of Education, Tao is committed to helping the students in her classroom – pre-service teachers soon to face these issues – understand the different ways diverse students think, feel, learn and form relationships. “The issue in education now is that although the U.S. student population is becoming radically diverse, teachers are becoming more monolingual,” said Tao. “The number of mainstream teachers is growing, so there is a mismatch in language, culture, ethnicity and race between students and teachers, and among white students and diverse learners. Pre-service teachers in many colleges and universities do not have the knowledge base or skills to approach and work with these children." According to research, it is because of that cultural mismatch and the demographic change in student population that many minority students are failing in our K-12 school system. To help her pre-service teachers understand diversity first-hand, Tao has created a study abroad foreign exchange program particularly for juniors and seniors in the teacher education program at the University of Idaho. In June 2009, she will travel with some of her students to Japan and Korea, where they will study at Sungshin Women’s University, Tao’s alma mater. For every four University of Idaho students who study in Korea, one Korean student will come to the University of Idaho. “Our students are going to be the teachers in the near future,” said Tao. “They need to know how to approach these culturally, ethnically and racially different students." "Maybe this global education will widen their horizons and help them realize there are different ways of teaching, learning, interacting, valuing and belonging to a group," she said. "When it comes to teaching and learning, it’s a deep, culturally imbedded social practice. We do it a certain way in America, but when our pre-service teachers see it done differently in Korea and Japan, they will see there is not only one way.” The students will study in Korea and Japan for six to seven weeks and will stay in dorms at Sungshin Women’s University, which also has three K-12 schools on-site. While there, they will take two, three-credit courses and work with the Korean students in K-12 educational settings. "Class discussions and reading articles about different cultures cannot replace the hands-on experience these students will receive,” said Tao. She has felt the mismatch between student and teacher firsthand in her own classroom, a dissonance that she believes boils down to the ability to communicate clearly and form relationships with others who are culturally different. “I am one of the few professors of color my students encounter,” she said. “I feel a distance between me and them, and I am studying how as a faculty of color, I can work with white students who have such different backgrounds.” She has worked hard and tried several different methods to create better communication with her students, such as having students sign up to co-teach classes with her, listing student and teacher expectations, and increasing the level of communication via weekly e-mails. This semester, she feels she’s finally making a connection with her students, and believes the extra workload has been well worth the reward. Tao currently is recruiting students for the Korean and Japan study abroad foreign exchange program. “We are working hard to keep costs at a minimum for students,” said Tao, who noted that total costs for the trip will be around $7,500 per student. She hopes to recruit six to eight students for the summer 2009 and is looking for funding sources to offset the costs for students. Tao will discuss her program at the Study Abroad Fair on Wednesday, Jan. 21, in the Idaho Commons Clearwater/Whitewater Rooms. There also is an event at the same location on Tuesday, Jan. 20, from 5-6:30 p.m. called “A Day in The Life of a Study Abroad Student,” to provide students with more information about the program in general. To learn more about the Japan/Korean study abroad program, contact Andrea Chavez at or (208) 885-6587, or Tao at or (208) 885-2879. To find out about the Study Abroad Program, call (208) 885-4075. # # # About the University of Idaho Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state’s flagship higher-education institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year; the University of Idaho is the only institution in the state to earn the prestigious Carnegie Foundation ranking for high research activity. The university’s student population includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars. Offering more than 150 degree options in 10 colleges, the university combines the strengths of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. For information, visit Media Contact: Cheryl Dudley, College of Education, (208) 885-0119,

About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals. For information, visit