Hawa Kamara found adventure in everything through an education abroad program in South Korea over the summer months. Teaching English, learning Korean, experiencing new cultures and building relationships with exchange students from around the world helped shaped her future self, says the fourth year Medicine Hat College (MHC) education student.
Kamara was born in Guinea on the western coast of Africa and raised in Brooks, Alberta. She chose Medicine Hat College for its small size, personal approach and proximity to home. Her passion for new experiences led her to MHC’s Office of International Education and Diversity where she discovered the education abroad opportunities available to students.
“I was completely sold. Listening to stories about other students’ experiences inspired me. The more I learned about South Korea, the more confident I was in my decision to attend Dankook University,” explains Kamara.
To prepare for the trip, Kamara met with Nicole Nemo, MHC’s international mobility assistant, who provided valuable information about cultural expectations to ensure her adjustment to a new country went smoothly.
“Our philosophy is that education and learning is greatly enhanced by an understanding of different cultures, languages and peoples. Education abroad programs provide students with opportunities to develop the skills and attitudes required to function successfully in an interconnected global society, world and economy,” says Nemo.
Kamara spent seven weeks in South Korea, splitting her time as an English teacher in the Global Village program and as a Korean language student.
“I felt like I learned a lot about myself as a teacher and my abilities. The colossal realization from this experience was the passion I have for teaching. I went in with excitement each day understanding that it’s a new opportunity to help others be great.”
One of the most important things Kamara learned is the importance of making learners comfortable. Being able to break the ice and relate to students so they can find joy in learning is paramount for a teacher, regardless of the classroom or country. Once she moved into the role of student, she was able to better understand the challenges and frustrations of learning a new language and recognized that learning wasn’t limited to class time.
Outside of the classroom, Kamara took every opportunity to explore her host country. From traditional markets to temples, shopping centres to libraries, each excursion was a learning adventure but it was her interactions with others students that had the greatest impact on her experience.
“Right away I met other exchange students from different parts of the world and that was the highlight of my trip. Everyone had different upbringings and different beliefs on many cherished ways of thinking and I felt this brought so much eye opening feelings for me. My biggest concern was feeling home sick, however being around such awesome people stopped that from happening.”
She encourages all MHC students to consider education abroad programs. The college has partnerships with numerous institutions around the globe and programs vary in length. Students can choose from semester exchange, summer programs, internships or international degree completion.
“These experiences help you become a better version of yourself. It changed my outlook on certain things and made me realize how I want to carry myself as a person and a professional,” says Kamara. “I am grateful that Medicine Hat College has a program that allows students to get outside of their comfort zones and to experience a different part of the world with new people, which I feel is amazing because it changes your outlook on the world and other people around you.”
Looking to enhance your education? Contact Nicole Nemo to discuss current opportunities or visit www.mhc.ab.ca to learn more about study abroad programs at Medicine Hat College.
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