While spring semester study abroad and global immersion trips have been canceled due to the ongoing pandemic, Tom Plate, clinical professor and Distinguished Scholar of Asian and Pacific studies, is continuing to facilitate cross-cultural learning experiences for Loyola Marymount University students.
From opposite sides of the Pacific, LMU students collaborate with Yonsei University students to create and present substantive reports on common U.S.-South Korea issues. The topics covered in this semester’s final presentations included youth unemployment; news media contrasted and compared; authoritarian versus democratic instrumentalities in a pandemic; and China or U.S. as best long-term suitor for South Korea. Plate has been partnering with Professor Hans Schattle and Yonsei University, one of South Korea’s top institutions, since 2015 to offer the “Foreign Perceptions” Asia Media practicum.
The student research teams used a combination of Zoom, email, and Facetime to communicate back and forth. The classes have also been meeting, as a larger group, during weekly sessions. Prior to the pandemic, Plate used Skype to connect synchronously to Seoul, South Korea, but has transitioned to Zoom since the pivot to online classes at LMU and Yonsei University.
“My students are wonderful and have adjusted very well,” said Plate. “They are accustomed to spending much of their day in front of one screen or another, and the exchanges between LMU/Yonsei students has been very good and essential.”
Plate has been using technology to give students access to global experiences and perspectives for a number of years, and in the wake of the pandemic, more BCLA courses will likely explore global learning in virtual formats. In his three spring courses, Plate also refocused topics for work and discussion to the COVID-19 crisis. The Coronavirus Chronicles is a series of articles students are producing for Asia Media International, a student-driven media platform that Plate oversees.
“We have posted about 20 articles,” says Plate. “The students are drawing from immediate personal experience of how they’re coping, worrying about family, and witnessing the crisis from different parts of the country and world.”
Several Coronavirus Chronicle pieces are personal and moving, including one student’s account of his family’s suffering moving business and several students’ reflections on coping with social distancing during their senior year. In fact, the surge in topical content has led to record web traffic for Asia Media International this last month.
The outbreak has upended campus life, but Plate sees some key takeaways from this semester. “I hope students will look back and remember that it was not perfect, but different; that is was still international; and that you can learn so much working with people from other countries.”