Saturday, July 07, 2007


EWU's global reach

Great article in the saturday edition of the Spokesman Review on a unique summer program through Eastern's Drug and Alcohol Studies program. EWU is hosting students from South Korea who are in the Inland Northwest to learn about treatment methods for people addicted to drugs.
This is a great example of Eastern's initiative to have diverse programs as well as diverse students on campus - even if they're here for just a month. This also reflects the many quality programs at EWU that many folks just don't know about.
Here's the article, coincidentally from one of our alums.
start something big.

Pia Hansen: A new country, and new treatments

Pia Hansen The Spokesman-Review July 7, 2007
It's Friday morning, and I'm sitting in a classroom at my old school, Eastern Washington University. I'm here to interview 12 female students from South Korea, part of a delegation visiting the Alcohol and Drug Studies Program. They carry on a lively conversation about the United States, the people they've met and the places they've seen, and they laugh and gesticulate and whisper.
There's only one problem for me: The conversation is almost completely in Korean.
I ask the group if anyone has been to the United States before, and after much conversation in Korean, the group arrives at, "Yes, one person has."
And they all watch American movies.
I did that, too, I tell them, before I moved here from Denmark. As a result, I thought all Americans cursed like sailors.
Dr. Lee Young, the interpreter, stares at me disapprovingly.
"No," he says sternly. "No, no, nothing like that." Ouch, I just got my fingers slapped.
It seems no matter what I try, the conversation falls flat somewhere between the students, who really want to talk to me, and the interpreter, who occasionally interrupts, saying, "that's not correct answer."
I smile what I believe to be my most approachable smile.
"So, tell me, what surprised you here?" I ask.
"Beer is cheaper," says Mi Sun Cho, one of the students, with a big smile.
"Beer?" I ask, cocking my head.
"Yes," she says, beaming, while tilting her head back as if she's drinking, "much cheaper than Korea."
Clearly, she's my new best friend.
And the group finally laughs and begins to talk about Spokane. In Korean.
"It's a big city; the streets are very clean," says the interpreter. "And they didn't see any tall buildings, but a lot of grass. We do not have any grass in Korea."
Yet their visit is only remotely connected to cheap beer: The students are here to learn about alcohol and drug treatment and prevention, American-style.
"In Korea, they have never had substance abuse treatment programs," says Irene Bittrick, director of EWU's Alcohol and Drug Studies Program. "People with addictions were put in jail or sent to mental hospitals. To help Korea develop these programs, to have a ground-floor experience so to speak, is so exciting for faculty and for myself; and also to help the students understand how to treat people with addictions with respect – not like criminals."
The students are all enrolled at South Korea Wonkwang Digital University studying social work. They are accompanied by Dr. Kim Jin Won, a professor in the department of social welfare at Wonkwang.
Dr. Young lives on the West Side of Washington, where he works in drug treatment and counseling. Considering the animated conversation in Korean, remarkably few sentences make it back to me in English.
I decide to barrel ahead, asking if it's commonplace to talk freely about alcoholism in Korea.
Much commotion follows. In Korean.
"The tradition is that we do not discuss problem. We have a shame culture," Young summarizes. "But if one person has problem then that's how the community gets aware of problem."
And yes, there's a drug problem, too, especially with methamphetamine.
What about treatment facilities, I ask.
There's some disagreement among the students, but they all agree they don't have treatment programs in Korea like the ones we have here.
Locally, New Horizon, Partners for Families, Newta and many other agencies have welcomed the Korean students for field visits.
"They have bent over backwards," says Bittrick. "They've done everything they could to make it a good experience for the students. It's hard for them to do with dwindling resources and small staff."
From what I understand, the students are mostly surprised at how respectfully counselors talk to their clients.
"That's very different," Young translates for me. "We are learning about how the United States is doing it."
The students do 12 hours of fieldwork and eight hours of class work during the week along with a 1.5- to 2-hour debriefing every day. Of the 25 students who are here, only six are men.
I turn my attention to Kim, asking if there's anything he'd like to add to the hobbling conversation.
A stream of Korean comes my way – abruptly interrupted when the good professor forms guns with his hands, saying "bang-bang-bang" but pointing at no one in particular.
I'm wondering who he shot, and it seems like an eternity before Young begins to translate:
"I thought Americans, they shoot each other. But that's not so what I found. People here are very kind and precious. My impression of the treatment systems here is that they are broad and open and available to people with problems.
"We do have a system in Korea – but not as much as here. I'm impressed with the opportunity people have to get treatment here."
It's been almost an hour, and I can tell the class is eager to get on with the day's work.
My last question is simply, "What's the first thing you are going to tell your family about America when you return?"
It's a good livable country, says one. Americans are kind, says another.
Everyone agrees there's a vast amount of land here, that it's not crowded, and Young points out the drinking water is clean and good.
Many wish to send their children to EWU for further education.
"I feel like I can be assimilated here," says Mi Sun Cho.
Then she offers me tea from the little tea set that's been sitting in front of me.

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