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Nov. 21, 2013 Volume 35, No. 14

Partnership between MU and a South Korean province brings international experience to Mizzou education students

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Lesley Sapp, left circle, and Jillian Collins posed with other education students from MU and other American universities in Jeollanam-do, South Korea, last summer. Photo courtesy of Lesley Sapp

Applications for the program have increased dramatically since its 2008 inception

Last summer, Lesley Sapp, English teacher liaison and program coordinator for MU’s Asian Affairs Center, met up with Mizzou students she had selected to be instructors for an English language camp in South Korea. 

The Jeollanam-do Summer English Camp is an opportunity for MU students to teach English to South Korean children. This was the sixth summer of partnership between Missouri and the camp.

The camp consists of about 100 American students from four universities (MU, Portland State University, Arizona State University and the University of Arizona) who stay in the province of Jeollanam-do, South Korea, for one month during summer. The province pays for a participant’s round-trip airfare, travel and accommodations including meals. Students have five days of orientation and teacher training in Mokpo, the Capitol of Jeollanam-do.

After the training, each American student pairs up with a South Korean university student. They are sent to four or five different schools in the province. 

For the first 10 days, the “campers” are middle school students. After a three-day break in which students travel on a tour of the province sites, the following 10 days of camp involve teaching elementary school students. The curricula taught by the American teachers change so that each camp feels fresh for the Korean students, Sapp said.

“They’re not just sitting there and pounding out grammar [or vocabulary],” Sapp said of the teachers. “There are topics like cooking, science, nature and fashion.”

MU became involved in the program in 2008 when Jeollanam-do’s governor, Joon Yung Park, invited 25 MU students to the camp. They were selected from about 50 applications. The following summer, word got out about the program and applications rose to 110 for the 25 openings.

Demand remains high. “I already have a file of names for summer of 2014, and I started that file [last] May,” Sapp said.

The teaching experience isn’t the only attraction of the camp. The cultural excursions involve touring famous Korean sites. Last summer’s participants visited four cities, including Seoul.

Jillian Collins, a senior majoring in secondary English education, joined the program last summer because of its combination of teaching and travel, she said. Collins is interested in teaching abroad after graduation. “I thought this would be a great way to test the waters,” she said.

Collins said the food was the most difficult thing to get used to. Also, because it was her first trip to the country, she was sometimes puzzled by the culture. One of her favorite memories is when American and South Korean instructors watched a meteor shower together on the dorm roof of a college campus where they stayed.

“It was one of our last nights at our second camp,” she said. “It was awesome to see how quickly our relationships with our co-teachers developed.”

Collins fondly remembers her Korean students, especially a boy named T.J. When she started teaching, T.J. was a timid, shy and reluctant student. But after Collins and her students stood up for him against bullies, he opened up. On the second to last day of the camp, T.J. said “good morning” to Collins for the first time. It remains one of her most powerful memories from the trip.

“It sounds simple and small, but I felt like, with my persistence, I was able to create a safe relationship with T.J.,” she said.

For students interested in teaching English to Koreans, MU also offers TaLK, Teach and Learn in Korea, sponsored by the Office of Service Learning, and the Asian Affairs Center. 

Different from the summer camp program, TaLK lasts from six months to a year, and MU students in the program can earn credits while they work overseas. The Summer English Camp does not offer credits.

“American students really let them know that children who can communicate in English can have fun speaking English,” Sapp said.

For more information on participation in the next program, email Lesley Sapp at

— JeongAn Choi