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North Park University Hosts 54 International Students in American Studies Program

Students in the American Studies Summer Program at North Park University.
Four participants in the University's Summer ESL American Studies Program are, from left to right, Yoa Jung Cho, Hyun Jung Park and Jong Pil Park, all from Seoul, South Korea, and Chien Chih Kao, Taipei, Taiwan.

Program combines ESL classes with cultural learning, field trips

CHICAGO (July 3, 2012) — On July 4, nearly all of the international students in an English language immersion program this summer at North Park University, Chicago, will experience for the first time what an American Independence Day is about. That is one piece of their immersion as participants in the University's Summer ESL American Studies program, combining English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction, cultural exploration and field trips throughout the Chicago area.

"We're studying English through the vehicle of Chicago," said Dr. Kristin Lems, the program's director. "It's an academic program, and it's built on the cultural piece of Chicago — what the city offers in the summer, Chicago's history, and how the values and lifestyle of Chicago reflect American values and lifestyle."

The 54 students, mostly college-age, are from seven countries, plus three immigrant students who live in the Chicago area. Becoming more proficient in speaking English and learning about U.S. culture are the reasons why they are in the University's ESL American Studies program.

"People in Korea think English is very important, and I thought I wanted to study English in Chicago," said Jong Pil Park, Seoul, South Korea, one of 24 South Korean students in the program. Jong is an oriental philosophy major at Sungkyunkwan (SKKU) University, Seoul, which maintains a bilateral exchange program with North Park University.

"I came here because I want to learn 'live' English," said Hyun Jung Park, also a student in oriental philosophy at SKKU. "Koreans tend to learn English only by reading." Hyun said she is interested in Chicago's diverse culture, and learning about the differences between Eastern and Western philosophy. She added that she is grateful for the education offered through the North Park University program.

Chien Chih Kao, Taipiei, Taiwan, wants to improve his English speaking ability and make friends from different countries. He's a fan of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) system and its convenience. "This city is like a 'small America.' You can feel the diverse culture here, and see the beautiful scenery and the modern buildings," he said. "Everybody's kind, and they say hello, even if we have not met before." Chien is a physics major at National Chung Hsing University, Taichung, Taiwan.

Students talking at Nyvall Hall.
North Park University students Saada Hilts, left, and Brian Gatheru are program assistants with the Summer ESL program.

During the intensive five-week program, the students will take 12 field trips, all on CTA transportation, and visit Chicago cultural attractions, such as museums, ethnic festivals and neighborhoods, and a Fourth of July parade. New to the program this year are community service projects, and spending time with Chicago-area host families. One service project was at the Albany Park Community Center, where the students cleaned up classrooms and planted a garden.

Lems explained that the community service projects are significant grassroots experiences, in which the international students witness a community working together for the common good. The host families home visit idea came about through Lems' own international experiences. "I remember that when I lived abroad, and when other people talk about living abroad, the most precious experiences are the ones when you're inside the home of someone from that country, not just shopping or being at a restaurant or being in a museum -— it's being in someone's home," she said. At least 35 North Park University faculty and staff families are hosting students for Sunday meals, Lems said.

Working with Lems are two North Park University students, Saada Hilts and Brian Gatheru, and Kennan Daoudi, a student at Hamline University, St. Paul, Minn. Hilts was born in Ethiopia, and Gatheru comes from Kenya. Both are resident advisors at the University.

The University's ESL American Studies program was founded by Dr. Dennis Bricault, professor of Spanish and director of the University's ESL program. This summer, students in the American Studies program are from South Korea, Mexico, China, Spain, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan and the United States.


Use @npunews to follow North Park University News on Twitter. For further information or resources, contact John Brooks, Director of Media Relations and News, via email or at (773) 244-5522. Learn more about North Park University.

Next Steps

Watch Chicago's Channel 7 News coverage of these students experiencing their first Fourth of July parade.