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International Students’ Alternative Thanksgiving Break: 2014 East Asian Program for seniors

Initiation of 2014 East Asian Program for Seniors
One day, student representatives of the Korean Student Association (KOSA) at Indiana State University talked to me about community service near Indiana State University during 2014 Thanksgiving Break. At that time, Terre Haute Korean community representatives and I thought about a special event for a senior housing complex, Sycamore Manor, located in Terre Haute. I obtained an official invitation letter from the marketing manager from Sycamore Manor and visited the place to check out a space for the potential performance and activities for seniors. I decided to work collaboratively with the ISU Korean students for the event. In addition, when I talked about the sponsorship of the event to an associate director at the Center for the Global Engagement, he requested me to include more international students than just Korean students. I then contacted the Japanese and Taiwanese Student Associations. Two more student associations also decided to participate, so the title of the event became the “2014 East Asian Program at Sycamore Manor” instead of Korean Culture Sharing. In total, 50 people volunteered to serve about 25 seniors for the event. They were 25 international students from three different countries and 25 Terre Haute Korean community members. The majority of the international students were Korean students at ISU.
ISU Koran Students Association

The Event Preparation
To prepare for the event, we had several meetings and then created, published, and advertised a program brochure to the seniors living at Sycamore Manor. At that time, Terre Haute Korean community leaders volunteered to work with us, including Mrs. Hyung J. Chang, Mr. Sangdo Park, Dr. Jin Park, and Mr. Soohyun Jang. Mrs. Chang, a graphic designer and Origami specialist, trained volunteers in Origami because this was one of the major events. Mr. Park, the president of Terre Haute Korean Community Association, and Mr. Jang, the president of the Terre Haute Korean Soccer Association, contacted Korean community members about participating, and Dr. Park, the ISU Korean Student Advisor, encouraged Korean students’ participation for the event. The president (Samuel Han) and vice president (Minsoo Shin) of KOSA at ISU advertised and organized the event with other Korean students. All the leaders focused and worked hard on the event preparation (see the event brochure below).
The Outcome of the Program for Seniors
hands on activities for seniors III

The event was very successful among seniors. One said,

“Thank you so much! I have lived in Sycamore Manor for three years. This is the best program that I’ve ever had. I truly enjoyed it!”

Another said,

“Recently, I lost my vision. I am blind. I am so glad to listen to beautiful music played by different musical instruments! Thank you!”

Many seniors praised the talented young Korean players’ excellent musical performance. Another senior said,

“I made Santa folding papers. I will give them to my grandchildren when they come here.”

One of the event programs had students from the Japanese Student Association do the service of writing seniors’ names in Japanese. One of the senior participants held up a paper with her name written in Korean and Japanese and said with a big smile,

“Look at this. This is my name in Korean and Japanese! It is so cool.”

The Taiwanese Student Association prepared zodiac tags for the seniors to make. One of these said,“I am a monkey! It is my Zodiac tag!” and showed off her pendant that she made.

Benefits for the Program Participants
audience II
Many participants think that it was a great opportunity to meet and talk with seniors and experience their life-long wisdom and generosity for young performers and college students. Most participants in the event were very proud of their participation. They appreciated the time spent with the seniors, especially during Thanksgiving break and told me that this event motivated them to think about other good service for the community. As many international students’ family members live in their home countries, they also thought about their grandparents’ and parents’ love during the preparation and the event itself. I concluded that this event was successful because it provided not only musical performance and hands-on learning experiences for seniors but also the true value of community service and experiential learning for participants, especially international students and Korean community members in Terre Haute, Indiana. Therefore, this excellent service project should be continued.

This article is written by Yong Joon Park, Associate Professor, Dept. of Elementary, Early, and Special Education, Bayh College of Education, Indiana State University, Terre Haute, IN.

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