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“Where Should Non-Korean Speakers Go When They Feel sick?”

2021-02-08 Academic

Kyung Hee’s independent research program aims to boost students’ autonomy, creativity, problem-solving skills, and cooperation. Launched in 2016, it was integrated into all undergraduate majors in 2018, establishing itself as a new key academic component of Kyung Hee education

Students in the program can design their study as an individual or in groups, and carry out their projects for one semester under the guidance of a professor in charge. Diverse topics including research (learning), practice, participation, entrepreneurship, and job creation are available. The second semester of 2020 also saw students conducting independent studies on a variety of topics depending on their interests and majors. The following is an interview with one of the student groups called Easy (이지[二地]: “two lands”). They produced a healthcare map for international students. <Editor's Note>

The COVID-19 outbreak hit every corner of the globe as an unprecedented pandemic. Governments across the world are providing healthcare-related spatial information via community mapping to curb the spread of COVID-19. Noting the growing importance of spatial information in healthcare, Students Yeorym Kim (Geography, ‘18) and Woosung Choi (Geography, ‘19) of the Easy team looked for what they could contribute to society and then began their independent research.

An online map showing hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies that provide language translation services
The Easy team focused on international students. Student Kim said, “While working on the independent studies project, I also joined a regional education program hosted by the Campus Town Project Group. I was searching for social contribution activities and found an exceptionally large number of international students in Dongdaemun-gu.” “In a crisis, the socially vulnerable tend to find it especially difficult to access geographic and spatial information, as, for instance, the Corona Map and the Facial Mask Map are only available in Korean. I could identify with the difficulties that foreigners might have while living here,” explained Student Choi.

Being very much aware of this issue, the team analyzed international students’ access to healthcare services while producing a healthcare map for them. They met once a week with their advisor, Professor Seong-Yun Hong of the Department of Geography, and received feedback from him. First, they designed a healthcare map for international students residing in Dongdaemun-gu and then, with the help of exploratory spatial data analysis (ESDA), rated the ease of accessibility of healthcare facilities for international students. The team members emphasized they wanted to help students from abroad stay safe and comfortable on campus and in the community by improving their access to healthcare-related spatial information and medical services.

They also created an online healthcare map. "Our online map uses ArcGIS StoryMaps, an online mapping services platform,” Student Choi added. The team is going to submit related information to the local government. “Medical facilities that do not provide language translation services have difficulty in treating international patients. The biggest problem is that the campus area is far away from hospitals, clinics, or pharmacies that provide medical services in multiple languages. We will pull all of this together to request relevant support from the Seoul Metropolitan Government and Dongdaemun-gu Office,” Student Kim explained. Their research received the first prize at the Campus Town Regional Education Program.

“Growing through independent research”
When asked what she had learned from the independent studies effort, Student Kim answered, “I had to take care of everything from topic selection to analysis and methods. Problem solving was also my share of responsibility. However the struggle for improvement and the toil in getting everything right eventually rewarded me with personal growth.” “There are so many people in need but our map in its current form can only help international students. I will further improve the map through an intensive independent study,” said Student Choi.

The team members also commented on the advantages of their geography education. Student Choi pointed out, “The computer programs used during the research were what I had already become familiarized with in my major classes. I also learned how to use story maps during my study overseas supported by the department, which was of great help as well.” “The Department of Geography teaches both human and physical geography. I am very proud of its curriculum. In addition to the courses in major, Humanitas College offered liberal arts classes to nurture moral character. They gave me time to examine myself, think about others, and explore ways to make this world a better place. Everything came together to provide a fertile ground for my independent studies,” Student Kim concluded.

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