East meets West: South Korean students experience American culture through food

by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Sutton
51st Fighter Wing PAO

CHEONAN, South Korea  -- Students from Cheonan High School, recently spent a few hours of their afternoon July 10, trying more than 25 different kinds of American snacks as part of a cultural exchange opportunity.

 Before the students began the feast they watched a quick video of Korean snacks sent to a high school in Tennessee being eaten by the American students.

 "The main purpose of this project is to expand the cultural horizons of both our students and those of [an American school]," said William Corcoran, Cheonan High School teacher. "I am one of the English as a foreign language teachers at Cheonan High School along with Chris Binnie. We created an English podcast club which gives our Korean students the opportunity to reach other countries and cultures through internet broadcasting, while providing a strong opportunity for them to further practice and develop their speaking skills beyond what we could do in a classroom environment."

 Many of the students in the school-to-school project know Korea or America as only a place on a map.

 "There's a big world out there with many people that are just like them," Corcoran explained of his students. "They may be down the street from where you live, or half a planet away but regardless, we are still the same, with the same dreams, fears, interests and hopes for the future. I remember being a teenager in high school and often times our world is exclusive to our school, town, and community we belong to. It can feel small, isolated and lonely."

 Even with massive leaps forward due to the internet and social networking, many people's view of the world is still limited to their county, state or country.

 "Even with the technological advancements, being able to share certain parts of our cultures like food, will teach all students involved that there's a lot of good that can come from international cooperation and help develop a stronger bond between the young citizens of Korea and America," said Corcoran.

 The American students tried local goodies such as silkworm while the Korean students were introduced to banana marshmallow pies and red soda.

 "The food we tried today was different from what we usually snack on," said Hyun Ki Park, Cheonan High School student. "The American food was tasty and the portions were very big so everyone was able to have some until they became full. I liked the snacks very much."

 Staff Sgt. Thomas Wilson who is assigned to Osan Air Base assisted Corcoran with acquiring the uniquely American treats.

 "I think Americans are interested in learning about other places and sharing our culture with other countries," said Wilson. "It also allowed some Air Force members who volunteered to help ... experience a local community school. I look forward to expanding relations and learning more about Korea while sharing more about America with them."

 Wilson and Corcoran said they are looking at next sharing more elements of popular culture such as music and games with translated instructions to each of the schools.

 "Having an American military presence in Korea is an opportunity to bridge and connect communities internationally," said Corcoran. "Hopefully, we can motivate the young learners to travel to new lands, meet new people, and experience new things, ultimately living balanced and fulfilling lives."


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