Exploring Language and Culture

Rather than landing a summer position at a local law firm between her first and second years, this summer GSU Law student Brittanie Browning advanced her legal studies in a less conventional way. The 24-year-old spent eight weeks in Jeonju, South Korea, studying Korean through the U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship Program.

Georgia State Law student Brittanie Browning, who has a keen interest in international law, was among approximately 630 undergraduate and graduate students from the United States chosen to take part in intensive language institutes across 14 countries in 2012.

“A lot of the feedback I received from talking to attorneys was that you really need to have international experience and exposure,” Browning says. “I had already learned some Korean and I knew it could be a really difficult language to learn. I wanted to get as much experience as possible.”

Browning studied Korean as an undergraduate at Georgia State, where she majored in film and video in the Department of Communication and studied abroad in China. She entered this summer program at the “advanced beginner” level.

A typical day in Browning’s full-immersion experience entailed six hours of classroom instruction at Chonbuk National University, followed by time with a peer tutor, independently navigating the bus system for a 40-minute commute home, then doing homework and spending time with her host family – a couple with two children, ages 7 and 12. On the weekends, the program arranged excursions to different parts of the country that Browning says were planned “down to the minute.”

With only eight weeks to learn what would normally take a year to cover, the 32 CLS students in Jeonju had a lot to pack in. Browning and her classmates eventually found time to set off on their own to shop, sightsee and absorb local culture. Even with other Americans, though, they were required to speak Korean.

“It can be really challenging when you’re talking to another native [English] speaker,” Browning says, explaining she always had a dictionary handy. “It’s interesting and kind of hilarious at times, but then when you’re talking to a native Korean speaker, you’ll be really glad that you looked up a word and now know it.”

At the beginning and end of the program, each participant had an oral proficiency interview to help measure his or her progress. Browning says that, in addition to bolstering her language skills, her summer in Jeonju helped her learn a lot about the Korean mindset as well as the country’s tradition and history.

An intensive experience like this immersion program “is the best way to understand a different culture,” Browning says.

“No matter what you’re studying, I feel like it’s really important to have a better understanding of a global community. I think law students should go for it,” she says, “especially if they want to do international law. You really need to have an understanding of the world before you jump into it.”