KOKOMO, Ind. — For dozens of South Korean nursing students, Sarah Shutt is the face of Indiana University Kokomo.
Each spring since 2003, students from Jesus University in Jeonju, South Korea, spend two weeks at IU Kokomo, attending classes and clinicals, and participating in cultural experiences. For the last five years, Shutt has participated, serving as an ambassador to the visitors on behalf of the campus.
Her goal is to be a positive representative of all IU Kokomo students for the visitors.
I want them to know that on our campus we’re very accepting and they shouldn’t be afraid to talk to us,” said Shutt, a senior communications major from Kokomo. “We want to learn more about them, and help them learn more about us.
I think they feel like they have a friend when they come here,” she added. “I want that feeling for them, to make it more enjoyable. I want them to feel like they have a friend waiting for them.”
Bridget Whitmore, clinical associate professor of nursing, said Shutt made several new friends when Korean nursing students visited this month, as she enthusiastically jumped into playing the games they brought, and participating in Korean language lessons some of them taught.
It makes them feel more welcome when they see the same friendly face at several events,” said Whitmore. “She makes them feel like somebody really cares about them, because she comes to multiple events. They were able to get to know each other on a more personal level, and they feel like they have a friend in America they can come back and visit, and maybe she will come visit them. You can tell she found learning about other cultures valuable.”
IU Kokomo’s relationship goes back to 2000, when Linda Wallace, professor emerita of nursing, participated in a faculty exchange with the South Korean university. Since then, the campus has hosted about a dozen students and faculty members each spring, and IU Kokomo students have gone to South Korea during the summer. Several South Korean students have also studied at IU Kokomo.
Shutt first became involved with IU Kokomo’s program as a Kokomo High School student, after befriending an IU Kokomo student from South Korea who was living in her school’s international dormitory. She was invited to accompany her friend to events with visiting nursing students, and met Wallace and Lucy Tormoehlen, lecturer of nursing, who typically lead the campus visits.
I made connections with those faculty members, and even though I’m not a nursing major, I feel like I can go to them with any issues I have,” Shutt said. “They’ve become friends and mentors.”
Shutt said she’d been interested in South Korea since middle school, and was thrilled to learn that the School of Nursing’s annual trip is open to students of all majors. She traveled in May 2017, and said it was one of her best experiences as an IU Kokomo student.
The whole time I was there, I kept pinching myself to make sure it wasn’t a dream, I was really in Korea,” she said. “I will always remember it, because I completed part of a dream in going there, and I established relationships with people. It was the first time I’d been off our continent, and on the other side of the world.
When I came back I felt like something had changed in me,” she added. “I feel like I became more open-minded and open to other ideas. I wanted to be involved with lots of different cultures. It really expanded my mind. I’m so thankful I was able to go.”
She also made friends while in Korea, and keeps in touch via social media. She’s also taught herself to read Korean from online lessons and YouTube videos.
Most recently, she helped host three Korean nursing students and their faculty member, who visited from January 12 to January 25. Having traveled in a country where she doesn’t speak the language, she feels like she offers understanding from a peer.
I’m pretty easy to get along with, and I am someone they can relate to, because we’re about the same age,” Shutt said. “I can explain American culture and current events and things that are confusing to them, from the perspective of someone like themselves.”
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.