But that didn’t stop Oh, who is working toward her master’s degree in educational leadership at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, from volunteering to be a part of a class at Winneconne Middle School. Each week, Oh shows up at the middle school to sit alongside seventh grader Mi Jin Homan; Oh serves as a mentor and coach, translator and friend.
Oh came to UW Oshkosh as part of a third cohort of Korean students who are earning master’s degrees in the College of Education and Human Services. Oh will graduate, along with her class, this May.
Oh said she is enjoying the experience at Winneconne Middle School—and likes that it gives her access to an American classroom and students.
“It’s great to observe class settings and see how teachers handle their classes,” Oh said. “It’s also great that I can really help Mi Jin understand what’s going on in her class.”
In Kraig Western’s social studies class, Oh and Homan sit together at the back of a classroom—engaged in assignments and word translations.
“As much as I’m there to help her learn, I feel like I learn as much as I help,” Oh said.
Administrators and teachers in Winneconne said they are delighted to have Oh—and other UW Oshkosh volunteers—as a part of their classrooms. They credit Oh with helping Homan become a confident learner.
“Having Sujin as a resource has been great for Mi Jin, our school and my classroom,” Western said. “Sujin brings a glowing personality that is infectious for Mi Jin and me. She helps translate words or helps find words that may provide a better understanding of the material, which has been a big asset for Mi Jin to better comprehend and understand class material.”
Back at UW Oshkosh, Jenna Graff, director of international education, feels proud of the work international students are doing within the surrounding communities.
“For international students, it’s important they get the context for their education as well as have an opportunity to make an impact beyond who they go to class with,” Graff said. “They also get to practice their own English.”
Beyond Oh’s time in the classroom at Winneconne Middle School, she said she’s also enjoyed the experience of connecting with the school’s principal.
“The setting is very different than it is in Korea. I can compare the settings—that’s one of the best things for me,” she said. “Someday I can apply these things in my country.”
As a UW Oshkosh graduate, Todd Schroeder ’87, Winneconne Middle School principal, said he is appreciative of his school’s connections with the University—and of what this particular partnership has brought a student.
“As a small district, we have limited resources to deal with ESL (English as a second language) students. It’s so rare. So when we found out about this opportunity, it was really great,” he said.
“The learning and growth we are seeing in Mi Jin because of this is outstanding. It’s been really great.”