The Duncan Banner
When going abroad, college students often get traveling into their blood and for Weldon Kyle Rice, one week in South Korea was enough for him to fall in love with the area.
A graduate of the University of Central Oklahoma and a Marlow native, Rice spent much of his final months in college praying about where God wanted him to go after he received his bachelor’s degree in interpersonal communications. Lo and behold, Rice was led back to South Korea, where he had previously spent about seven days abroad.
“I taught English at a private after-school academy, which are typical for South Korea,” said Rice. “Koreans are wonderful people and are so hospitable, it became a second home for me.”
While a student at UCO, Rice was a student assistant for Dennis Dunham, Ph.D., executive director of International Services at Central. Dunham always wanted to put in a UCO international office and when the opportunity came up to be the coordinator for that office, Rice knew Korea was a prime area for just that.
“We opened the office Oct. 15, 2012, and we’ve gotten a good response,” he said. “It’s the first office overseas for UCO and we’ve always had a small interest from Koreans; we have about 130 on campus.”
Right now, Rice is working on building up the exchange program to where not only will Koreans be recruited to UCO, but Americans will gain interest in studying abroad in Korea. This experience is important, Rice said, at both a personal and professional standpoint in a student’s life.
“They can experience Asian culture, which is very different from American culture, and it will allow them to interact and relate to Koreans,” Rice said. “The incentives the Korean universities are offering are great because American students can study for half the price in Korea than Europe and they offer free housing.”
Rice has held a few study abroad fairs for both Koreans and for Americans. The Korean study abroad programs have been brought to many UCO students’ attention than ever before. Right now, Rice is stateside and has held a few presentations at UCO, but will be heading back to Korea on March 11.
“I’ll be back here at the end of July and then go back after a few weeks,” Rice said. “I’ll just keep going on like that until I decide not to do it anymore or the university closes the office.”
Although Rice enjoys Korea and all the friends he has made there, he said it is hard being away from family. Being from a small town and a self-professed “country boy,” he now lives in a suburb of the largest city in Korea but said he enjoys that environment too.
“I will always remember when I come from and I look back to see those who invested in me when I was so young, who taught me so much, who gave me the courage and faith to step out and do something like this and I’m grateful,” he said.
“It’s not easy and it’s not for everyone, but it’s rewarding to have this opportunity.”