The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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CSUN students learn Korean with Valley U

An instructor for the Korean culture class teaches Korean to Kelly Fitzgerald on Saturday, May 11, 2024 in Granada Hills, Calif.

Learning a second language can be hard, especially one that uses a different alphabet from ours. An organization known as Valley U Korean offers free Korean classes close to CSUN. The class is held at the Valley United Korean Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Granada Hills, and takes place from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. over six weeks.

While classes began on May 4, it is still early in the itinerary, and they are planning to possibly have more classes in the fall, but are confirmed to have classes in spring 2025. The Daily Sundial spoke to the founder and instructors of the class, Andrew Kim, Olivia Cho, Mina Cho and Hyun John. John is the senior pastor for the church and the others are student missionaries from South Korea. This is the second time this course has been provided.

Valley U wanted to offer the class to provide a more hands-on, in-person experience in learning Korean that is more insightful for the students.

“So we want to let them come to the church and experience Korean tradition, language, food and culture,” John said.

Due to its proximity to CSUN, the church wants to provide these services for free to promote their culture. The first classes, which began on May 4th, had 16 students total, some of them being from CSUN. There are no textbooks provided or needed, as it is just class lectures for the language. The program also has movie nights and lessons on cooking Korean cuisine.
According to Pastor John, there is some passion from the current students.

“It’s really hard to tell right now because we met for the first time with 16 different students, but they are really excited to join and learn Korean tradition and language,” John said. “So they are doing great. So it is, but it’s hard to say at this moment.”

The pastor also spoke on how deep in the beginning they are in learning the language.

“So we just start from the alphabet,” John said. “So, I guess it’s not that hard because you are trying to learn Spanish or another language… But after that, if they are trying to move forward like writing a Korean letter or reading a Korean book, that’s a different situation. But at this moment, they are just beginners.”

The Sundial also interviewed Gary Bernal, a 24-year-old IT major, about his experience in the class. He is a transfer student expecting to graduate in 2026. Bernal said he wanted the chance to explore other cultures as he believed it would be enriching. His friends, who love K-Pop and frequent Korean restaurants, led him to join this class.

“So I was really drawn into the culture, mostly through food and less to K-pop actually, but I’m into K-pop now as well. What particularly drew me towards these Korean culture classes is that it wasn’t only just them sharing their culture and teaching us some phrases and some of their language.”

Bernal enjoyed how they were able to make a Korean dish at the end of class, and in his free time, he tended to cook many Korean dishes. For Bernal, he had lots of practice, but also stumbled while learning the language.

“I think that [learning] was fairly easy for me. It’s just I think the pronunciation was a bit difficult because I’m not too familiar with how to pronounce the ‘go,’ the ‘cheo,’ and a bunch of other consonants.”

Finally, Bernal shared his gratitude for the class. “I felt very welcomed to be there. And, quite frankly, honored as well that they would be sharing this experience with us for free.”

Two other students from CSUN also shared their experiences after joining the class: Emily Dray, a CSUN sophomore, and Kelly Fitzgerald, a CSUN freshman.

“I signed up because I wanted to try something new and always wanted to travel to Korea,” Emily explained.

“The appeal of the country of Korea to me is that it has a very rich history. I know that there is more to Korea than its pop culture, and so I hope that this class will give me a foundation to learn more about Korea’s history and customs,” Fitzgerald said.

Valley U offers lots of enriching experiences for CSUN students interested in Korean culture. While many can learn Korean online, the class offers a chance to be in a place with like-minded individuals who also attend CSUN, and to feel a sense of camaraderie and connections as one learns the rich language.

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