For Hyeseok Lee and Co-workers, Ball State Becomes Online Destination

While serving as an an assistant teacher at an international academy on an island just off the southern tip of South Korea, Hyeseok Lee realized she’d need a master’s degree to continue teaching.

After extensive research, she applied and was accepted at several graduate schools with online elementary education programs but ultimately chose a program from an American school she’d never heard of: Ball State University.

“I wanted a program that gave me flexibility so I could take care of my children and work on my courses at the same time,” she says, impressed that it was “a state university with a long history.”

Ironically, when Hyeseok talked to the principal at her academy about leaving to do graduate work, she learned that her principal had graduated from the same Ball State.

Ball State Online Made it Possible

Hyeseok left the academy on the island of Jeju in 2020 so she could become a full-time mom and a part-time student in an online elementary education degree program with a concentration in early childhood.

“It is amazing to raise a child and worth so much to do it,” she says. “I like the fact that Ball State makes it possible.”

Hyeseok says it’s exciting to connect with so many people outside of Korea, and she’s become good friends with classmates.

“I love my professors as well,” she adds. “They have been helpful and knowledgeable for me to continue my learning.”

She’d Never Heard of Canvas Either

She thinks the most appealing aspect of Ball State’s online classroom is its flexibility. “I love Canvas [Ball State’s learning management system],” she says. “I’d never heard of it before but it is easy to navigate and to use.”

When students introduced themselves at the beginning of the semester, Hyeseok says some of her classmates were interested in knowing more about student life in South Korea.

First of all, she explains, the 13-hour time difference between Ball State faculty and South Korea does not impact her since classes are available when she is available—or asynchronously.

Hyeseok earned her undergraduate degree with majors in child welfare, public relations, and advertising from one of the top women’s universities in Korea.

Took Path Through Women’s Schools

In addition to attending a women’s university, she also attended a girls’ junior high and a girls’ high school.

She says the belief that education was primarily for men stems from the influence of Confucianism which held that seeking knowledge was “men’s work.” To help achieve gender equity, leaders founded Sookmyung Women’s University, Hyeseok’s alma mater, in 1906, as the first women’s university in Korea.

Home for Hyeseok is Jeju Island, a tourist destination, located 60 miles south of the mainland.

Her Home is a Vacation Destination

“Its advertising slogan is ‘Hawaii of Asia,’ and it’s the warmest place in South Korea,” says Hyeseok. She describes it as “a volcanic island with beautiful nature, beaches, and famous oranges.”

In recent decades, she says, Jeju has become known as one of busiest honeymoon and vacation destinations in the world.

Hyeseok’s detailed research for graduate schools and successful application may have paid off for some friends in South Korea, too.

Two other assistant teachers at the international academy enrolled in Ball State online degrees, based on her word of mouth alone.