Coffee Meets Kimchi in Maine

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by Youngjin Kim
A Kookmin University student responds to local news interviewers at the Coffee and Kimchi event at the Wicked Brew Coffee bar in Bangor, Maine. [Image: Kevin Bennett]

Husson University’s Summer English Enrichment (SEE) program held an event titled “Coffee and Kimchi”  at the Wicked Brew Coffee Bar — a local café in Bangor, Maine — for the visiting Korean students from Kookmin University, the sixth largest university in Seoul, South Korea. As part of the SEE program’s cultural immersion portion, the event served fair-trade espresso and kimchi — a traditional Korean dish of spicy pickled cabbage — side by side as a symbol of the American and Korean cultural crossover. The event exposed culinary and leisure cultures of the American countryside to the Korean students, who came from the busy metropolis of Seoul.

The recent increase in international students contributed to Husson University’s globalization efforts. The SEE program, which brings Seoul students to the verdant state of Maine, aims to improve fluency and understanding of the English language and American culture of students for whom English is a second language. Following the educational partnership between Husson University of Bangor and Kookmin University, the SEE program launched in the summer of 2013. The university-wide partnership between the two schools also established a direct student exchange program, in which students from both universities participate each semester. Husson University has been home to Korean international students since the 1970s.

Active US-Korea educational exchange is a long-standing phenomenon. Korean students are the third largest cohort of international students in the United States while American students are the 6th largest international student group in Korea. Alongside US-Korea political and economic exchanges, educational exchange serves an instrumental role in fostering cultural understanding between the two countries. Recognizing the importance of people-to-people ties between Korea and the United States, the United States Department of State offers the prestigious Fulbright exchange program for American students and the Work, English Study, and Travel (WEST) program for Korean nationals. The estimated Korean student expenditure in Maine is $1.8 million annually. 

Youngjin is a research intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a student at the George Washington University.