Lamar University Press Logo

Around the Globe

Shim aims to expand LU study abroad programs

Kyungsik Irene Shim aims to increase student study abroad opportunities. UP photo by Noah Dawlearn
Kyungsik Irene Shim aims to increase student study abroad opportunities. UP photo by Noah Dawlearn

With a dream to be a history professor in Korea, Kyungsik Irene Shim, the new director of international engagement and study abroad, combined her strong work ethic and love for travel to pursue educational innovation.

“While I was writing my dissertation in 1986, I was asked to join the task force of international education at Michigan State University,” she said. “In my earlier career, I worked mostly on training programs funded by the U.S. Department of State. I worked, traveled and created these programs for government officials and professionals in Africa, Eastern Europe and South America.

“When you think of international education, I think I have done every aspect of it, from developing dual degree programs in university partnerships, internship and study abroad programs, to institutional partnerships for student and faculty exchange programs.”

Shim said she hopesto strengthen the Lamar University study abroad program through more individualized contact with students interested in the program.

“I think that Lamar University, in the past six years, has grown dramatically in the field of international education,” she said. “It doesn’t happen overnight, but I think that Lamar has successfully got through the first stage of international awareness or internationalization. For a smaller university, it has done a great job.”

The issue for students is how they think about study abroad, Shim said — it is meant to have an academic focus and not just an opportunity for travel and fun.

“The perception of study abroad, for students, is traveling instead of an educational investment,” she said. “This skill and professional attitude from interacting with people from different cultures will become a part of you, and gives the student a valuable tool for success in the workplace.”

Shim’s said her goal as director is to shift students’ focus on the importance of internationalization.

“Internationalization comes on three different levels,” Shim said.“International students expose Lamar University students to a new language, culture and perspective. By having international students in our classroom we are bringing more diverse perspectives and giving an opportunity to our students to be exposed to that. By taking students on study abroad, we are providing that opportunity for our students to directly connect to different cultures.”

Making institutional partnerships between Lamar and other universities helps Lamar to increase its internationalization indicator to prospective students, Shim said.

UP photo by Noah Dawlearn
UP photo by Noah Dawlearn

“When the president of LU is signing a memorandum of agreement with a university in China, it is our president’s attempt to bring our internationalization statusto a higher level for our students,” she said. “That signature and partnership will elevate the university and indirectly elevate the student’s status.”

The next important step in internationalization, Shim said, is breaking the culture barrier for communication.

“The ability to communicate with a person who has a big culture gap teaches our students to indirectly and unconsciously learn how to communicate with them,” she said. “For example, going to Spain once for study abroad does not make one an expert, but the more we interact with people of different cultures, the more we acknowledge that we do not know about each other, and it’s very important.”

Students should learn to see the world as people, not a map of places, Shim said.

“I get emails from former students from study abroad programs to Korea,” she said. “Lately, Korea being on the news, it reminds them of me and the people they met in Korea. You picture stores, the roads you walked, the people you’ve met. To me, that is a beauty of internationalization. The more we are exposed to internationalization here at Lamar or abroad, it changes our life, perspective, and dream and vision of tomorrow.”

Shim’s long-term goal is to raise the number of Lamar’s study abroad participants, and to create a more interdisciplinary programs for freshman for their electives.

“In the 2017-2018 school year, the total of students who went abroad was only 130 students, and Lamar has roughly 10,000 students on campus,” she said. “That is far below the national average, which is seven percent, meaning for Lamar, it would be 500 students attending. One of the things I like to encourage students (to do) is to look at study abroad in their early years in college. If they wait until they are a junior or senior, then it is much harder to incorporate a program that fits their need.”

For more information, visit lamar. edu/study-abroad.

Story by Sierra Kondos, UP staff writer 

Category: Features