Congratulations to Nathalie Lopez Del Valle, recipient of the Center for Asia Pacific Studies Summer Stipend for 2020! Nathalie, a 2nd-year student in the MA in Asia Pacific Studies program is spending the summer studying Korean at the Sejong Institute in San Francisco. Learn about Nathalie’s experiences in the program (in her own words) below.
“This scholarship would have originally sent me all the way to South Korea to study at Sogang University, fulfilling a dream I have held since I was fifteen years old when I discovered my first K-Pop group. Obviously, that was not possible under the COVID-19 emergency and travel restrictions. I know that that trip will still happen sometime in the future and I look forward to going to South Korea and using my newly learned language skills.
I am grateful to the Center for Asia Pacific Studies at the University of San Francisco (USF) for providing me with the opportunity to continue working toward my goals. This summer I have been enjoying my online Korean language studies at the Sejong Institute in San Francisco. Taking this course in the middle of an unprecedented worldwide pandemic has shown me that “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” I could not have asked for a better instructor to guide me during this time than Professor Kim. Her boundless energy every Thursday always motivates me to stay engaged and keep working hard. So, too, I appreciate my classmates and although we have not been able to meet in person, we have nonetheless developed a comfortable and supportive learning community and I always finish my classes in high spirits after interacting with them.
Part of the reason why our class is so dynamic is that we all have different backgrounds and different reasons for studying Korean culture. One of my classmates manages a farm and is an expert in all types of Korean dishes. Another is a big fan of Korean dramas and this has led Professor Kim to make frequent references to famous Korean actors, such as Hyun Bin. Many of my classmates have also previously visited Korea and one has a Korean mother.
The inherent difficulties of online classes aside—particularly when language learning is concerned—we’ve managed to make the most of it. We take our exams through Google Forms, we record ourselves speaking short dialogues in Korean as homework, and we use Zoom breakout rooms to practice one-on-one. Especially in these last few weeks as we´ve grown more comfortable with each other, our classes have been full of laughter. Laughter has been somewhat hard to come by during these past months of social distancing when most of us have been bored and passing the time away with Netflix. Because of this, I’m particularly grateful to my classmates and professor.
As a student in the Master’s Program on Asia-Pacific Studies at USF, gaining Korean fluency will naturally be a skill that will open new research and professional avenues. Though I still have a long way to go, seeing as I am taking a Beginner 2 class at the moment, I feel myself becoming a bit more adept in Korean every day. This experience has given me the self-confidence and drive to see this journey through. If I can study Korean in San Francisco from Puerto Rico during a pandemic, I think I’ve got this.”