South Korean ROTC students are first at Norwich


(left to right) CDT Joo Chan Park, CDT Jin Ho Kim

(left to right) CDT Joo Chan Park, CDT Jin Ho Kim                                                 Photo Credit Darwin Carroza

For the first time in their history, South Korean Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) students are studying abroad. Norwich University is hosting two students for the 2016 fall semester, according to Mindy Ward, the senior coordinator for international students.

“The exchange was instigated by a (Norwich University) student who studied abroad in Seoul, South Korea, in 2013,” said Ward. “(The exchange process) took awhile because of a law that was in place in South Korea. At any time, Korean students were able to study abroad. But, because of the law, ROTC students specifically were not allowed to study abroad for longer than a month.”

Ward further explained that there was an agreement between some schools in South Korea and the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (A&M) that allowed them to study abroad for a short amount of time. The law prohibited ROTC students from studying abroad due to the fact that it would push back their commissioning date by a year.

“I do not know if a lot of students here realize that Korea is a very strong ally of the United States,” said Ward. “We have a large number of military bases there, and at some point many students who are going into the armed forces are going to end up there.”

Even though the biggest challenge of receiving Korean students was changed because of the one-month prohibition being changed, there were still tasks that needed to be dealt with.  Ward explained that the communication was not always the best. Due to the time difference and unparalleled training schedules, it was not only hard to keep in contact, but also hard to coordinate.

Even if the ROTC programs did not match up in training, the ROTC program in Korea is somewhat similar to the program here in the United States.

“You have to take a Military Science class for the four semesters that you are in the ROTC program,” said Joo Chan “David” Park, 23, an English major from Korea University. “If you do not take a Military Science class in the semester that you study abroad, you have to postpone your commission a whole year.”

Similarly, here at Norwich University, along with other ROTC programs in the United States, if you miss a military science class for a semester, you do not commission on time due to the fact that you have not met the commissioning criteria.

For the students to be able to commission and graduate on time, they are taking military science classes here on campus. “We are currently enrolled in MS211, (Military Science II), so we can commission on time,” said Park.

“There are three different ways to become an officer, somewhat similar to the United States,” said Park. “There is ROTC, the option of going to a federal military college, or you can commission after regular college.”

Another similarity between Norwich University’s ROTC program and Korea University is that both programs are four semesters.

“We find out our branch about six months before commissioning, just like the seniors here,” said Park.

Even though this is a new experience for the country  of South Korea, the two students that were selected for the program were not hesitant to come to Norwich.

“This is my first time coming here to America,” said Jin Ho Kim, 21, an English major from Korea University.  “(So far) I like it here, the culture, the food, and the classes.”

On the other hand, for Park this is not his first time to the United States. “I was born in South Korea, but I moved to the United States in the year 2003,” said Park. “I spent most of my childhood here, starting in New Jersey and then moving to Texas and Virginia; I then moved back to South Korea in 2008.”

Park continued to explain that because of his time here in the United States, he speaks, and understands, English pretty fluently.

Both students learned about the exchange in May of this year. Upon hearing about the possibility of the exchange, they were both interested and excited to apply. They were selected over the summer.

“I had experience in this country, and I wanted to come back, even if it was only for a semester,” said Park.

“’Is it possible for me?’ was my first reaction, because I have never been here to the United States,” said Kim. “I suspect maybe this is why I got selected for the program.”

Everyone who is involved on the Norwich University side seems to wonder about the students. They are wondering how they are doing and if they are happy to be here.

“I hope they are happy, we want them to have high English proficiency,” said Dr. Guiyou Huang, the senior vice president of academic affairs and dean of faculty.  “So they can understand what is said, and write fluently so that they will be academically successful.”

Dr. Huang added that he also wants them to be socially successful so that they do not feel isolated. He wants them to be able to make friends that they will remember, rather than just passing all of their classes while abroad.

“As an exchange student, it is not to difficult to follow the school work,” said Park. “I usually hang out with my friends, that I have made here, on the weekends.”

Kim also states that he is getting more and more involved with the university and other clubs and activities.

Both students noted that there are things that are different between Norwich University and their home school. One of the differences is Norwich University’s daily routine and lifestyle.

“Back in South Korea, it is a regular college so there is not a regimented lifestyle,” said Kim. “There are no things like rooks or having to wear a uniform everyday.”

He then added that their school is not like the stereotypical American school. He said that it is so quiet due to the fact that there are not a lot of parties and alcohol; it is very rural.

Park had similar comments about Norwich, saying that it is different than the original experience he had in the United States.  “It is pretty quiet, really quiet, actually.”

“There really is not much to do here,” said Park. “I do not like the fact that there are not many convenience stores here; in South Korea, there are convenience stores every 200 meters.”

Both students already have plans for after the military, due to the fact that they only have to serve 28 months as an officer once they commission into the service.

Park, who is studying to pass the test to be a Certified Public Accountant, said he hopes to “go into a finance branch in the military.” He adds if his movie career does not work out, he figures he will have accounting to fall back on as a career.

Kim is already planning his post-military career, which he hopes will be in acting and film. He is a member of the Pegasus Players at Norwich. He said, “I hope to continue my studies with film and acting even after the military and hopefully one day be on the big screen in Korea.”

All in all, this exchange program with the United States has helped them in many different ways. Being able to study abroad has helped them with careers they want to pursue after the military. The continuation of the exchange program benefits the Norwich University students as well. Ultimately, Norwich hopes that this program will continue.

“I hope that South Korea will continue to send us students,” said Dr. Huang. “Not only as exchange students but also students who will pursue degrees.”

Dr. Huang hopes that degree-seeking students from South Korea will also become the norm, just like degree seeking students from Taiwan. The degree-seeking program has helped in many ways to build relations and friendships in the past few years.

“We are excited to have the students here, as well as Norwich students interested in going to South Korea for the exchange,” said Ward.

She continued that if any student is interested in going to South Korea or any exchange program at all, to contact Mara Iverson at, or visit the International Center in Plumley Armory for more information.


  1. Don Lincoln says:

    Great article Kellie, the Korean government is slow to act sometimes, but the benefit of a great Norwich experience will lead the way for future exchanges.

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