For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, Calvin students are getting a chance to study for a semester in South Korea.
Recently, Calvin has signed two Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) documents with Handong Global University and Baeksoek University. Not only does this open up study abroad trips to South Korea for Calvin’s students, but it is also a concrete step towards the mission articulated in Calvin’s Vision 2030 document. Through these list of agreements, Calvin has started achieving “expanded global influence.”
Cynthia Slagter, the director of off-campus programs, emphasized the history of these partnerships. Records of Calvin’s relationship with Handong Global University date back to at least 2003. Similarly, the connection to Baekseok began in 2000, when the university invited Galen Byker –– Calvin’s president at the time –– to give a lecture about Christian higher education, according to Won Lee, professor of religion.
According to Slagter, these agreements are re-emphasizing a system of student exchange that fell away during the COVID-19 pandemic. They work as “seeds that are planted,” Slagter told Chimes. These agreements also encourage strengthening Calvin’s international relationships for years to come.
To be a part of this exchange, Calvin students would pay Calvin tuition and remain enrolled in the US while attending Handong. This policy ensures that all Calvin financial aid would continue while studying in South Korea. However, living expenses will not be covered by the university.
“They have a very strong computer science program in Handong, and they are also strong in law and business,” said Slagter. A wide variety of courses there are taught in English, meaning Korean proficiency wouldn’t be a requirement for the program.
Slagter hopes that these connections will open doors for students who wouldn’t typically be considering studying abroad. “I think this might be especially interesting for students in engineering or business, because both of those areas have an international certificate you can get if you do international study.” Slagter told Chimes.
Historically, Calvin’s study abroad programs have been targeted towards students studying world languages or the humanities, and this relationship aims to grant similar opportunities to students in other majors.
Calvin’s plans to have roughly one student from Handong studying here at Calvin for every one Calvin student studying at Hadong. This differs from other study abroad programs; usually large organized groups of students go together. It’s also a possibility that students from Handong can come to Calvin for short-term programs in the summers.
Matt Lundberg, professor of religion and director of the De Vries Institute for Global Faculty Development, focused on how these MOUs will impact faculty from both institutions.
“There are two primary ways that the De Vries Institute will be contributing to the emerging partnerships Calvin is developing with these universities,” Lundberg said. “Along with Baekseok University, we will be co-convening a global consultation on Reformed Christian approaches to higher education, which will be held at Baekseok’s campus in the summer of 2024.”
The De Vries Institute has also shared its Reflecting Faith faculty development courses with Handong University, which plans to use them in professional development at various universities founded by Korean missionaries.
Sung Soo Lim, a professor of economics who has delivered lectures at Baekseok in the past, said “I believe [Baekseok] University has great potential to become a more influential Christian university. The university shares the same Christian affiliation as Calvin. For this reason, I believe Calvin can provide opportunities for professional development offered by the DeVries Institute.” Lim also noted that Handong is already well known as an exemplary Christian university in South Korea.
Lee visited Korea last June along with the De Vries Institute. “This kind of partnership with Handong and Baekseok is in line with trying to achieve the points of the Calvin 2030 Strategic Plan,” Lee said. He also emphasized that these agreements are a two-way partnership, where knowledge is shared between Calvin, Handong and Baekseok.
According to Lee, these partnerships work to fulfill Calvin’s vision. “I hope that Calvin students are interested in this kind of global perspective, because these days, everything is global. Even though we are located in the Midwest, here in Grand Rapids, our thinking and our connection must be towards a global perspective, because God is the Creator of all things,” he said.
Yammer’s Student News has a list of courses regularly offered in English for anyone interested in the opportunity to study at Handong Global University.