Students seek sports management wisdom in South Korea

WSU students are packing their bags for South Korea, where they will gain hands-on experience in international sports management.

The faculty-led study abroad program will take place from June 23 to Aug. 8 during the second 2014 Summer Session.

“Korea was picked because Korea has so much in sports,” said Chris Lebens, a clinical assistant professor and co-leader of the excursion.

South Korea hosted the 1988 Summer Olympics, the 2002 World Cup and the 2011 World Championships in Athletics and has been selected as the location for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Students will spend the six-week trip at three universities across the country and visit each of the venues of the world sports competitions, which Lebens said is a unique experience.

The trip will begin in the nation’s capital at Seoul National University of Science and Technology and will travel from there to the Pusan National University in Pusan. The trip will end at Gangwon National University in Chuncheon.

Students will immerse themselves in South Korean culture by living in the residence halls and eating in the dining halls of each university they visit.

Lebens said the goal of the trip is to help students extend their global reach.

Yong Chae Rhee, a clinical assistant professor and co-leader of the trip, said many students don’t care what happens outside of the U.S.

“In order for their success to happen, they need these experiences outside of their comfort zones,” Rhee said.

In addition to that experience, participants will be eligible for credit in international sports management and venue management courses.

“The best way to really do this class is to do it in another country,” Lebens said.

Rhee said the experience of traveling internationally is important for students who aspire to work for large athletic organizations like the NBA and the MLB, which have roots internationally.

Junior sports management major Nicholas Frisk said he looks forward to participating in the program for the cultural diversity it offers.

“Just being able to see this perspective, how they do it internationally, how they do it in Korea compared to here, is really exciting,” Frisk said. “I think it’s going to be kind of a culture shock.”

The program will include a trip to the DMZ as well as palaces, temples, amusement parks, markets, and a few surprise locations, Lebens said.

Lebens and Rhee said the trip would not be possible without extensive help from the College of Education, the Global Learning Department, and Rhee’s connections in South Korea.

Rhee, who is South Korean, completed his undergraduate work at Pusan National University before traveling to the U.S. in 2008.

“I really utilized my networks in Korea, so this wouldn’t be possible without the people who are trying to help us out,” Rhee said.

A professor from Gangwon National University recently invited a small group of his students to complete a sports management study abroad program in the U.S., and Pullman was their first stop.

Rhee said the South Korean students stayed for several days in Pullman, where they connected with WSU students. The groups plan to reconnect in South Korea, he said.

“I think they already Facebook-friended each other,” he said. “When you go to a new country you really should know someone who can take you to local places.”

The budget for the program initially required that 10 students register, and only eight have registered thus far. The College of Education contributed funding to offset the costs of bringing two fewer students.

All students interested in the program are encouraged to apply.