Make The Connection

June 20, 2024 | By Cole Hatcher

During their trip to South Korea, Ohio Wesleyan's Dede Shine (from left), Giorgi Bediashvili, Blake Johnson, Kaylen Brandt, Ava Giese, Alexie Otworth, and Ji Young Choi visit Gyeongbokgung Palace. The group expanded their understanding of issues studied this spring in Choi's 'East Asian Politics' course. (Photo courtesy of Ji Young Choi)

East Asian Politics

Ohio Wesleyan Class Travels to South Korea to Explore Its Evolving Economy, Culture

Giorgi Bediashvili '25
Kaylen Brandt '26

Name: Giorgi Bediashvili '25
Hometown: Tbilisi, Georgia
High School: Independent Secular Gymnasium "Shavnabada"
Majors: Politics & Government and Data Analytics (Bachelor of Arts); Quantitative Economics (Bachelor of Science)

Name: Kaylen Brandt '26
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
High School: Lindblom Math and Science Academy
Majors: Politics & Government and Communication
Minor: Data and Society

OWU Connection Experience: East Asian Politics Travel-Learning Course

In addition to Bediashvili and Brandt, students Ava Giese '26 of Groveport, Ohio; Blake Johnson '24 of Centerburg, Ohio; and Alexie Otworth '24 of Centerburg, Ohio, traveled to South Korea from May 14-30 to investigate "the development of modern national identities and the political and economic modernization processes in East Asia from a comparative perspective."

The students traveled with Ji Young Choi, Ph.D., associate professor of Politics and Government, and Dede Shine, assistant director of International and Off-Campus Programs. They also met up with alumna Millie Rocco '22 during the Travel-Learning Course.

Professor Choi shares that after spending a semester studying the topic in the classroom, the course's optional travel component allowed students to "better understand the historical and cultural contexts of South Korea under which rapid political and economic changes have occurred … observe what is really happening in the country politically, economically, and culturally ... [and] better comprehend South Korea's political and economic achievements and current political and economic issues."

Why This Experience?

Bediashvili: "It completely differed from my past experiences and offered me a unique travel opportunity to a region that I had never visited before. As a person interested in international development and economics, this experience allowed me to travel to South Korea and learn firsthand about its rapid economic development while emerging in a completely new culture."

Brandt: "I had previously done research about East Asian Politics, more specifically Korean politics. Therefore, this trip (allowed) me to apply the knowledge I acquired inside and outside of the course."

We live in an interconnected world, and immersing yourself in different cultures is really eye-opening.

Giorgi Bediashvili '25

Lessons Learned

Bediashvili: "I would say South Korea should be on everyone's travel list, especially those interested in East Asian politics and economics. In our classroom, we learned about and analyzed the economy of South Korea and its rapid development, known as the 'Miracle on the Han River.' However, seeing this rapid economic growth and innovation with your own eyes is an entirely different experience. Additionally, having the opportunity to emerge in a completely different culture promotes cross-cultural learning, which cannot be achieved through classroom discussions. As a student majoring in Economics and Politics & Government, this trip was full of exploration and learning that I'll be able to bring back to campus and to my future career.

"We live in an interconnected world, and immersing yourself in different cultures is really eye-opening. Immersing oneself in another culture fosters empathy, cultural sensitivity, and a deeper appreciation of global diversity. Additionally, it allows students to apply theoretical knowledge to real-world scenarios and is a great addition to classroom learning."

Brandt: "Some lessons that I learned and connected were the impact of soft powers like cultural exports and the day-to-day reality of geopolitics in the region."

Ohio Wesleyan's travelers stand in front of the 123-story Lotte World Tower, the tallest skyscraper in Seoul. Taking part in the Travel-Learning Course, part of the OWU Connection, are (from left) Ava Giese, Dede Shine, Alexie Otworth, Ji Young Choi, Kaylen Brandt, Blake Johnson, and Giorgi Bediashvili, (Photo courtesy of Giorgi Bediashvili '25)

Favorite Moments

Bediashvili: "Visiting the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) was a very different and memorable experience. At first, I didn't really know what to expect from the DMZ tour, but I would say it was a unique experience that significantly impacted me.

"After we went through military security screening, we were able to get to the border as close as possible and visit the UN-controlled area. Seeing the North Korean city beyond the border and realizing that in the past, before the war, it was one country where everyone lived in peace without the need for DMZ was eye-opening. DMZ holds the history of the Korean War and how it impacted the people in both parts of the peninsula."

Brandt: "The ability to dance with a K-Pop idol trainee, meeting Yonsei University students, and catching up with my friends who either live or work in the area."

Campus Involvements

Bediashvili: "Last year, I was elected and served as the vice president of WCSA (Student Government). In this role, I represented the student body and advocated for their needs. Additionally, I'm actively involved with the Model United Nations club on campus and serve on the Economics and Business Student Board."

Brandt: "I am the current president of Reality Remix, I dance with Orchesis Dance Company and Terpsicorps, I serve on WCSA and DEI Council, and I was the OMSA Program Ambassador for Spring 2024."

Why Ohio Wesleyan?

Bediashvili: "I chose Ohio Wesleyan University because of all the opportunities it offers students, from travel opportunities to student-oriented research programs. Additionally, Ohio Wesleyan's dedication to academic excellence and amazing faculty were significant factors in my decision. I would say that Ohio Wesleyan is a hidden gem among other liberal arts universities and definitely prepares you for the ever-changing world."

Brandt: "I chose to attend Ohio Wesleyan because it met so many of the requirements I wanted for my college experience."

Plans After Graduation

Bediashvili: "After graduation from OWU, I plan to pursue a career in international development with a concentration in international relations and economics. Additionally, I plan to pursue graduate studies that will advance my skill set. One thing I can say is that I'm really excited to see what the future holds for me."

Brandt: "How is OWU helping to prepare you to reach these goals? As a rising junior, I have enjoyed my time in Ohio and at OWU, but I look forward to pursuing my master's or a Ph.D. at one of the many amazing universities in my home city of Chicago."