UH Hilo students going to South Korea to showcase program teaching English as a second language

On the trip to Changwon National University, three UH Hilo students will gain real-world experience and insight into the field of teaching English as a second language.

By Karl Reid.

Asia Helfrich
Asia Helfrich. Courtesy photo.

Three University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo students will be embarking on a trip to South Korea through the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) program. The trip is made possible through the financial support of the Droste bequest.

Asia Helfrich, a junior who will be graduating in spring 2019 with a bachelor of arts in English as well as certificates in both creative writing and TESOL, will be one of the three students embarking on the nearly week-long journey to Changwon, Republic of Korea.

Helfrich, along with fellow UH Hilo students Phillip Yawata, and Manuelito Kadmiel Rey will be joining and working with Bela Conley-Ramsay, director of the TESOL certificate program and an English and linguistics professor at UH Hilo, and Seri Luangphinith, chair of the humanities division and an English professor at UH Hilo, on the trip to Changwon National University.

Building at Changwon University

The professors and students taking part in the trip will be embarking from Hilo International Airport on March 25 and returning March 31.

“We are showcasing our TESOL program,” says Helfrich. “Our program teaches a communicative approach, so we try to get the students talking to each other in English as soon as possible. We are hoping that Changwon students might gain a new perspective and insight into different teaching methods. We hope to learn from the students at Changwon as well.”

The UH Hilo TESOL program aims to provide students with both a theoretical foundation and with practical tools for teaching English as a second/foreign language. The program also gives students opportunities for real-life scenarios to prepare them for future career opportunities—such as the upcoming trip to South Korea.

Living a dream

Helfrich says the trip is an incredible opportunity for students.

“I have never left the country before,” she explains. “I was also doing lots of research about teaching in South Korea just a year ago, so it’s crazy that I’m actually getting that opportunity now. This trip might help me secure jobs in Korea in the future. I’m excited to be a guest in another country and to be immersed in a new culture, even if it’s only for a few days.”

Helfrich, who holds a 4.0 grade point average, explains her inclusion on this trip as a mixture of hard work, dedication to the TESOL program, and luck.

“My sister graduated from the TESOL program last year, so I heard about it through her,” she says. “It’s been a dream of mine to teach English in a foreign country, so I’ve been doing research on teaching opportunities abroad since I graduated high school three years ago.”

“This trip will definitely give me some real-world experience and insight into my field,” she adds. “I’ve been able to teach ESL [English as a second language] students here [in Hilo] through my teaching practicum class. In going to Changwon, however, I’ll actually be simulating exactly the kind of work that I will be doing once I graduate. This trip will inform my teaching approach and hopefully I’ll be able to apply what I’ve learned, and figure out what works and what doesn’t.”


Author: Karl “Lee” Reid is a senior majoring in history with a minor in English.