Torero Alumna Learns at a Global Level

Torero Alumna Learns at a Global Level

There’s no doubt Gwangju, South Korea is where Madeline Kasik ’16 is supposed to be. This San Jose native, who graduated from the University of San Diego with a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations, has found a second home halfway around the world. An active Torero, Kasik was involved in PRIDE, USD Honors Program, was a resident assistant, and was a part of both Pi Beta Phi and Phi Beta Kappa. After graduation, Kasik joined the Fulbright program in South Korea, teaching English to middle school students.

“The Fulbright experience, through travel, research, and teaching abroad, cultivates global citizenship,” says James Gump, PhD, USD’s faculty advisor for the program. “Given the growing undercurrents of ethnocentric nationalism that are beginning to define America's relationship with the global community, the Fulbright Program has never been more indispensable.” 

Because of the opportunities available to students who pursue global leadership such as Fulbright, USD News Center's Allyson Meyer recently asked Kasik about her experience to gain a snapshot into her two-year long adventure abroad.

How did you find out about Fulbright?

I would not have known about Fulbright had it not been for USD’s Fulbright liaison, Honors Director, and my mentor, Dr. James Gump. I still remember Dr. Gump talking about Fulbright my first week at USD. Applying to Fulbright [can be] stressful, but it is that much easier thanks to the streamlined support at USD. I could not have applied without our amazing and talented faculty and staff.

How did USD prepare you for the experience?

I’m in awe over how much my experience at USD shapes my teaching in South Korea. Dr. Yi Sun and Dr. Randy Willoughby’s Honors Team-Taught prepared me with practical knowledge about Korean politics and history crucial to living here. Being a resident assistant gave me the skills to memorize many of my students’ names and interests. Being in Pi Phi taught me how to work in a team and adjust to the different styles of my Korean co-teachers as we work together in the classroom. Being in PRIDE gave me confidence in my identity and my public speaking abilities. These skills, when applied practically in South Korea, have manifested in my passion for and desire to teach.

What was the adjustment like?

Fulbright does an amazing job of preparing people to live abroad. Fulbright Korea has a six-week orientation program where grantees take Korean classes five hours a day, followed by culture classes and classes about teaching English as another language. However, even this orientation is limited in its ability to prepare someone to live abroad, and what’s left is an individual’s own propensity to adapt to a new and different situation.

What has been your favorite part of the experience?

Without question, my favorite part of the experience has been the relationships I’ve formed here. Not only have I met other Fulbright grantees from across the United States, but I have formed lasting relationships with teachers, students and faculty. My students, middle schoolers in Gwangju (year 1) and Cheonan (year 2), delight, challenge and inspire me.

How is this a changemaking experience?

When I think of changemaking, I imagine a person who gathers knowledge and resources to enact the change they want to see in the world. Fulbright exemplifies changemaking. In order to gather knowledge, I stepped out of my comfort zone and into teaching abroad. I was changed by the people I have met and by the environment where I have lived. Now, I want to use what I’ve learned and the resources I’ve gained in order to enact positive change in the world, for myself, and for the students I’ve met here.

How has this experience shaped who you are and what you want to do?

Through Fulbright, I have discovered a love for teaching. My students are energetic, engaged, and hilarious, and the teachers are kind and supportive. I don’t want to leave. These past two years have been monumental both in terms of personal growth, and as a witness to growth on the Korean peninsula. It’s amazing to see this transformative period in Korean history through the eyes of my students, to see them holding candles in protest, or watching North Korean leader Kim Jong Un step into South Korea, the first time a North Korea leader has done so in 65 years.

What does the future hold?

Starting in August, I’ll be back in San Diego to pursue my Masters of International Affairs at UC San Diego. Inspired by my experiences, I want to use the information I’ve learned in South Korea and apply it to graduate study. In particular, I want to use what I have learned to make the world a better place for my students.

What would you say to those reading this reflection?

I want to express my endless gratitude to everyone who supported me in this process, from my professors, mentors, and staff, to the friends who believed in me: from the bottom of my heart, thank you. I hope that my experience may inspire others to go out of their comfort zones — apply to that reach school, that internship, that program, or travel the world: you never know what the result might be.

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