Friday, June 22, 2012

What I am doing in Jeju

My introduction post was light on the details of the program at Jeju. Essentially Jeju National University created a program which invites over three different professors from various colleges in the United States to teach summer courses to both Korean students and a group of their own students. The professors involved in the exchange program applied and were interviewed by officials at Jeju National University. There are three professors from three universities, one from Richard Stockton College in New Jersey, one from Delaware State University and of course one from Sonoma State University.

The professor who invited me to go as one of his students to Jeju is Dr. David McCuan. His main area of expertise is the study and analysis of Elections, particularly the effect of direct democracy, and the study of terrorism. The class that I had with him however was much more more general class,  "POLS 302: Social Science Research Methods".  The Sonoma State University (SSU) catalog describes the class in their usual flowing poetic way saying:

"Social science research and statistical methods, which includes as a significant component computer-based data analysis using the SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences) programs. It may include building data files and data analysis using multivariate tables, correlations, and regression techniques in a directed  research project. The course includes a two-hour laboratory."

Now some people would be appalled reading that description. Traditionally words like data analysis multivariate, regression, and two-hour laboratory are not words typically associated with words like exciting, understandable or fun. Although I was intimidated by the course I was also ready for the challenge. My semester's course load would have been nauseatingly easy without POLS 302, I was taking an introduction class for my history minor, KSUN student radio (check them out during the school year at, and an introduction Political Science class which focused on political theory.  POLS 302 has a reputation among PoliSci students as being the most difficult class in the department. In order to take Senior Seminar which is required to graduate you must get at least a "C" in POLS 302. Not passing POLS 302 can delay your graduation if you leave it until last minute and fail it. I didn't particularly want that sort of pressure on me during the first half of my senior year. I knew I could not take the class while in Sweden and I wanted to add the challenge to my schedule.

On the first day of class Professor McCuan informed us that 25% of those in the classroom would fail. He then proceeded to tell us the formula for OLS regression that very day in class. The rest of the class consisted of me frantically taking notes, and occasionally having fleeting moments of understanding. After the first class I just thought "shit I am going to have to do a lot of work this semester". The rest of the classes were simmilarly confusing but they forced me to activly try to understand the material. Professor McCuan didn't spoonfeed us information, he waited for us to figure things out and ask questions. It was incredibly frustrating at times but by the end of the semester everything seemed to come together and I felt like I had a learned a tremendous amount and was proud of the effort that I had put into the class. As a side note if anyone wants to read a twenty-eight page paper on how the issue of Health Care effected Presidential Vote Choice in the 2008 election shoot me an email, it is a real thrill ride of a read.

I truly did enjoy POLS 302 and found myself incredibly interested in the material. I liked looking at the data from the American National Election Survey and trying to find trends in the data. Deciphering what survey data actually means is a multifaceted and it is immensely satisfying when you can understand what is happening in the data. In Korea Professor McCuan will be teaching a course on elections. It is a condensed of a class he teaches at Sonoma State University and was chosen because both Korea and the United States are having elections this coming fall. The class will focus on how voters make decisions and new campaigning techniques used by politicians to try to gain votes. I am interested in seeing how the Korean students react to Professor McCuan's teaching style. During POLS 302 Dr. McCuan was very informal, cracking jokes and randomly calling on people to answer questions, it was a fun and light hearted atmosphere. From what I have read the student-teacher relationship in Korea is much more formal. All the professors wear suites and all the students avoid eye contact. It will be interesting to see how the Korean students react to a less formal style of teaching. I am interested and slightly intimidated by the prospect of taking a Korean Language course from, what I assume, will be a Korean professor. It will be an odd change of pace to have the morning classes with the fun and jovial Professor McCuan and then having a a class with a stern and serious Korean professor.

During my three week visit I will be staying in a dorm at Jeju National University with a Korean roommate who will show me around Jeju and act as a host. I get two meals a day provided by the university although I don't know which two meals are provided. I really don't know any of the specifics about the actual living arrangements or what Jeju National University has planned for the international students. I know the framework of the trip but the filling. But that makes it all the more exciting, the ambiguity creates more of an adventure. Our flight leaves at 12:40PM Saturday June 22nd and we arrive in Seoul at 5:25 PM Sunday, June 23rd. The flight lasts about 13 hours which will give me lots of time to practice my sitting skills.

It is going to be an adventure and I am so glad I was given the opportunity to be part of it. Going to Jeju for three weeks will be a nice way to get used to international travel again as well as toughening me up for any culture shock I might have in Sweden. The fact that I am leaving tomorrow to go study on an island in South  Korea for three weeks still has not really hit me. I think partially it is because I really have had to do nothing in terms of planning. The logistics have all taken care of by Professor McCuan, Sonoma State University and Jeju National University. My contribution has been waiting for news and buying gifts to give to our hosts and packing for myself. I am really just going along for a ride. The fact that I am going to be halfway across the world being immersed in a completely different culture and country will probably hit me at one in the morning tonight when I am trying to fall asleep. So if you see inane rambling posts tonight at 4 am you know whats up. 

I might post some shorter posts later tonight or early tomorrow morning, but this will most likely be my last long post until I reach Jeju. Thanks reading, when I am in Jeju I will post plenty of photos so you don't just have to read my rambling wall of text, you can skim it and then look at the pretty pictures. 


  1. A picture or two of the classroom would be interesting, although I don't know how feasible that would be

    1. I am sure they would not mind, they are want to show off their campus. I'll probably take pictures of random objects that are different in Korea because it interests me to more then it probably should.

  2. Great post! It's an awesome experience you're having. I expect you to be fluent in Korean when you return.

    That polisci class sounds interesting. Can you devote your next blog post to the pro's and cons of Auto-Regressive-Integrated-Moving-Average vs. Exponential Smoothing styles of forecasting data? You should ask your profesor about R, it's an open source stats programming language/toolset.