Exercise science student travels to South Korea for internship to promote WMU

Contact: Chris Hybels

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—For Montana Smith, a student in Western Michigan University’s exercise science program, her internship was anything but traditional. She had the opportunity to travel to South Korea to promote her program at WMU to different universities and government officials.

"I went to South Korea to present to students in different universities, as well as the Metropolitan Council of Seoul. I presented about my experience at WMU to hopefully persuade some students to complete a study abroad at WMU," says Smith.

Smith's interest in South Korea started when she accidentally found a K-Pop song on YouTube that she really liked. She would spend hours a day listening to the song, even though she couldn't understand the lyrics.

Lee, Smith and Erhardt spell out WMU at a temple.

"I had no idea what they were speaking in the music video, but I really loved the song," says Smith. "And then a couple of years later I found another music video, but this time I knew that it was K-Pop and I just started really liking Korean music. So, I found more music groups, started watching shows in Korean and tried to speak it a little bit. Then I met this guy who happened to be Korean, and he helped me a lot with speaking and encouraged me to keep speaking. And when I met with my professor about the internship, it all just kind of started falling into place."

Her internship was supervised by Dr. Sangwoo Lee, associate professor of exercise science and a native of South Korea. Alongside them were Dr. Kristal Erhardt, senior associate dean of the College of Education and Human Development, and Dr. Yuanlong Liu, chair of the Department of Human Performance and Health Education.

The group was able to visit and tour multiple Korean universities and meet with members of the Seoul Metropolitan Council. Smith offered up her experience as a student, telling people about the lab facilities, life on campus, coursework and more.

"Montana did a wonderful job. As an undergraduate, she introduced our exercise science program to the faculty and students with a podium presentation," says Lee.

When visiting the different universities, Smith was also able to take tours and speak with students about their experience in higher education. 

"My favorite part of the internship was when we visited Kyung Hee University's College of Physical Education. We visited their athletic training center as well as meet some of their students. It was really lovely, and I really liked talking with them," she says.

The opportunity to travel abroad for her internship also gave Smith the chance to practice speaking Korean with native speakers. Before arriving, her proficiency in the language was limited to ordering items off a menu. Now she feels more confident in having conversations in Korean and can speak with a more native dialect. 

Since returning home, Smith has already started to see the benefits of having an international internship on her resume. According to her, the employers she has applied to have been very impressed by the experience. 

"I've been applying to a couple of jobs already and they really love that I have a broader perspective of how people perceive exercise science, especially through Eastern and Western medicine," says Smith." Although the two have become more similar, they're a lot of things over there that we don't practice here. I recently applied for a chiropractic company, and they really liked that I did the international internship because I knew a couple of the Eastern holistic practices." 

Although she will be graduating from WMU this year, Smith is already planning to return in the next few years for a master’s in athletic training. With a graduate degree, she would like to be on the staff of a sports team to provide medical assistance and be involved in the rehabilitation of injured athletes.  

“I really miss the feeling of being with a team and having people support you. So, with a degree in athletic training I could be helping the athletes who get injured and working with them for a long time,” she says.

exercise science at wmu

The Department of Human Performance and Health Education's Bachelor of Science in exercise science program is a scientifically-based curriculum which includes coursework in the basic sciences, the physiology and biomechanics of exercise, fitness assessment and exercise testing, exercise prescription and training, behavior modification and the clinical aspects of exercise. There are three exercise science concentrations: human performance, clinical/pre-professional and strength and conditioning. All of the exercise science programs integrate classroom study with hands-on practical experiences in order to provide the student with a comprehensive level of academic preparation. For more information, visit the exercise science program website.

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