Indiana State University Newsroom

South Koreans study U.S. social services, culture during Indiana State trip

June 24, 2015

A week-long study abroad experience earlier this year that provided Indiana State University social work students' insight into South Korea's social service system was reciprocated with a group from Hanil University visiting Terre Haute.

Five students and one instructor from the South Korean institution are participating in a 10-day experience, June 18-28, as part of a mutual partnership between the two universities that allows students to learn about social work practices and culture in each other's countries.

"Some politicians (in South Korea) want to take U.S. social work policies and make them the same as the U.S.," Hanil University social work professor Seong Chan Bae said through a translator. "I want the student to see what is going on in the U.S. so they can decide what they think would be the best for social work policies in South Korea."

During spring break last March, five Indiana State students traveled to South Korea, where they were exposed to Korean culture and social services and had the chance to speak with faculty and students in the social work program at Hanil.

Likewise, Robyn Lugar, associate professor in the department of social work, said the trip to the U.S. exposes the Korean students to different facets of American life and social services through visits to several agencies, including Hamilton Center, Wabash Valley Senior Center and Union Hospital, and at a meeting with social workers from the local National Association of Social Workers.

For several years, Lugar has helped organize the partnership between Indiana State and Hanil, which gives students from both institutions an opportunity to learn about social work delivery in one another's country while taking in a new culture.

"A lot of times people say that you have to study abroad for a semester or a year, but not all students have the finances to do that," Lugar said. "We want all of our students to have immersion experiences, so this partnership allows us to give students the opportunity to see another culture at a nominal cost. A week can make a difference in forever changing a student's perspective on the world."

Having never been out of the U.S., Scott Nauman, who is in his second year of the social work master's degree program, looked at engagement with the South Korean students as an opportunity to broaden his cultural horizon while a student Indiana State.

"I'm interested in how our perspectives as American students will differ on social work, especially when we go to the Amish community and experience it together as a group," he said.

While taking time out to visit Turkey Run State Park, Saint Louis Zoo, Gateway Arch and attend a Rex baseball game during the trip, the group also participated in a cultural experiential development project in the master's level group psychotherapy course taught by Diane VanCleave, assistant professor of social work, and attended a lecture by Portia Adams, associate professor of social work and director of the bachelor of social work program at Indiana State.

Spending time with the Korean students allows for "an international fusion of ideas," said Katie Lugar, a Terre Haute resident who is getting a master's degree in social work.

"I hope to learn more about social work in South Korea and the different ways policies work in South Korea and the U.S.," she said. "It's always a good opportunity when you can experience a culture that is different than your own."

Writer: Betsy Simon, media relations assistant director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-7972 or

Story Highlights

A week-long study abroad experience earlier this year that provided Indiana State University social work students’ insight into South Korea’s social service system was reciprocated with a group from Hanil University visiting Terre Haute.

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