Indiana State University Newsroom

South Korean students learn about social work, mental health during Wabash Valley visit

September 12, 2012

Delegation members from South Korea were surprised to learn that the general public was able to use many of Indiana State University's resources and services.

It was just one of many lessons the group received on a trip halfway around the world from their home.

Eleven people from Hanil University visited Indiana State to learn about social work and mental health treatment in the United States. The group talked with ISU faculty members and visited a variety of health services providers in the Wabash Valley, including Union Hospital and the Hamilton Center, to learn more. They also studied some of the key differences between ISU and some universities in South Korea.

"In Korea, especially in the university, inside of the school, we don't see ... other people not involved with the school," said Peter Kwon, a translator with the group. "But here, that's very unique."

Robyn Lugar, BSW program director of the department of social work at ISU, helped plan the delegation's itinerary so that particular days were devoted to learning about different kinds of health services. The group's visits focused on medical services one day, while another day the group visited mental health service providers. On another day, the group learned about developmental disabilities as part of the trip to teach the delegation about international aspects of social work.

"We talk in our classes that social work is global, and international social work is important," Lugar said. "Throughout our curriculum, students are reading about international social work, we're sharing with them what different countries' problems are, and there are global problems and global attempts to solve those issues."

Lugar helped organize the partnership between Indiana State and Hanil. Groups of students from each university regularly travel to the partner institution, where they have the opportunity to learn more about how social work is delivered in the host country. The short visits can provide students who cannot afford to study abroad for longer timeframes the opportunity to learn more about the world, Lugar said.

"One week can change your life," she added. "You don't have to necessarily go for a semester, and this may be the only time that students really have the opportunity to study."

The Hanil delegation also had the opportunity to teach Indiana State students and faculty while on campus. They participated in a mental health workshop, in which they discussed the approach to health care practices in Korea, and how some traditions have existed.

People in Korea know they wouldn't be alive without their parents, so eldest sons thought "‘I'm willing to look after them,'" Kwon told the panel during the presentation. Traditionally, the care of parents fell to the eldest son. The situation has changed in recent years to where siblings will look to who among them is most able to support their parents, while more people believe the government should have more of the responsibility, Kwon said.

For some of the students in the delegation, it was their first time visiting the U.S., so several planned events incorporated additional elements of American history and culture. The group visited an Amish family in Arcola, Ill., and a museum to learn more about the history of Amish people in the U.S.

"It was a good time to see a different part of the country, and that's why we did it," Lugar said. "We wanted them to see some history of the area."

The Hanil delegation also traveled to St. Louis and Chicago. They had the opportunity to stop at the Gateway Arch in St. Louis to learn more about the development of the western U.S. In Chicago, they visited the Hull-House, which was co-founded by Ellen Gates Starr and Jane Addams, who became known for her settlement work and international efforts for peace, according to the Hull-House Museum website.

"They were able to see historically in the Midwest where social work in an urban area was really born with Jane Addams," Lugar said. "They were able to talk with someone there" to really gain perspective.

While the group traveled to different cities, they also took time to learn more about transferring to Indiana State, as some of the delegation members were undergraduate students at Hanil.

"They have a big dream about the school and their education and their future," Kwon said, "so they are looking for different kinds of opportunities."

Photo: (Submitted photo)Group members in the delegation from Hanil University in South Korea pose at Rockome Gardens in Arcola, Ill. The group learned about various aspects of health care in the U.S., though they took other visits to learn about additional aspects of U.S. history and culture.

Photo: (ISU/Tony Campbell)Peter Kwon, a member of the Hanil University delegation visiting Indiana State University, speaks during a mental health workshop at ISU. The workshop covered aspects of health care in South Korea and the U.S., with additional information on aspects regarding mental health.

Contact: Robyn Lugar, BSW program director, department of social work, Indiana State University, 812-237-7650 or

Writer: Austin Arceo, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or