UW-Madison Hosts STARTALK Korean Language and Culture Academy for High School Students

This summer, high school students will have the opportunity to participate in the growing phenomenon surrounding Korean popular culture. Taking place on the UW-Madison campus, the STARTALK Korean Language & Culture Academy will give high school students (grades 9-12) a unique space to develop their understanding of Korean language and culture.

Students take part in a language-focused curriculum that includes exploration of Korean culture in such areas as cooking, dancing, and martial arts over a four-week period. Through generous funding from STARTALK, a federal grant program of the National Security Agency to promote the study of critical languages across the country, the academy is offered at no cost to participants.

Jaerin Ahn is the Lead Instructor of the STARTALK program and a graduate student at UW-Madison. According to Ahn, the theme of this year’s academy is entitled “My Journey to Korea,” and will include informational and interactive activities regarding three Korean cities in conjunction with language study. Ahn has found that the inclusive atmosphere of the program is often one of the greatest takeaways for students.

“Students gain language skills, but what I found most rewarding for students is that they build a strong community. They become a family. It is great to see them engage with other peers with similar interests,” Ahn said.

As both the director of the UW-Madison STARTALK Academy and the Korean Flagship Program, Dr. Byung-jin Lim (an associate professor of Korean at UW-Madison) attests to the growing popularity of Korean culture across the world. Due in part to K-pop, media, politics, and technology, Hallyu, or the “Korean Wave,” has permeated American society.

“The current status of the ‘Korean Wave’ goes beyond the love for K-Pop, television drama and movies. It has become a desire to fully appreciate Korean culture. As a result, the study of Korean language and culture has become increasingly important for American students,” said Lim. “Students in this program will get connected with many new people through whom they can experience various perspectives and ways of thinking while learning a new language.”

Student Brooke Barakat first heard of the STARTALK program from a friend, and was immediately interested in participating because of her career goal of teaching English in South Korea. Barakat says that the experience of being a student in the 2018 program finalized her desire to pursue a future in language education; she plans to return to UW-Madison for the program this summer.

“This program does a great job of teaching the language in a fun way and also immersing the students in Korean culture. If you truly love the language, then this program is perfect for you!” Barakat said.

Like Barakat, student Kayla Kolosick will also be returning for a second summer with STARTALK. Kolosick attests to the tight-knit community that forms during the duration of the program.

“From day one we all just click. We soon are like this family, helping each other learn the language and forming inside jokes, making plans to hang outside of class and even study. You’re never worried to embarrass yourself because everyone else will be right there with you,” Kolosick said.

All high school-age students, including rising ninth graders and those graduating high school in spring 2019, are eligible to take part in the UW-Madison STARTALK Korean Language & Culture Academy. The program will take place on the UW-Madison campus from June 17-July 19, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. No instruction will take place the week of July 1st. Interested individuals should submit their applications no later than May 15th. All application materials and additional information can be found at the website. Dr. Lim extends a warm welcome to all: “Let’s get connected and talk in Korean at the STARTALK Korean Academy this summer!”

Written by Madeline Peterson, Outreach Assistant