The Experience of a Jesuit Education on Both Sides of the World

By Angeline Boyer, Manager of Media Relations, Saint Peter’s University

Samuel Habib '12 with an exchange student (Photo courtesy of Saint Peter's University)

Samuel Habib '12 with an exchange student (Photo courtesy of Saint Peter's University)

Saint Peter’s University established a partnership with Sogang University in October 2010 in order to expand study abroad opportunities. But what was designed as a means to inspire students to pursue international opportunities has grown to become the most popular study-abroad partnership at Saint Peter’s.

Sogang University, located in Seoul, is the only Jesuit university in South Korea. The Society of Jesus established Sogang in 1960 to provide an education based on Catholic beliefs, as well as Jesuit educational philosophy. Sogang accepts undergraduate and graduate students from colleges and universities where there is a joint academic student exchange agreement. Currently, Sogang has agreements with over 223 partner universities in 55 countries, including many Jesuit universities like Saint Peter’s.

“As a fellow Jesuit institution, Sogang University’s goals are consistent with our tradition of cura personalis or ‘care for the individual.’ Both institutions provide an education based on the fundamental values of academic excellence, leadership, service and faith and this partnership provides a unique opportunity for members of both higher education communities to enrich student learning,” said Eugene J. Cornacchia, Ph.D., president of Saint Peter’s University.

Samuel Habib ’12, who graduated with a bachelor of science in international business and trade, was the first student from Saint Peter’s to participate in the study abroad exchange program.

“I have a great passion for traveling and [experiencing] different cultures,” said Habib. “When I did some research about South Korea and Sogang, I found myself very interested to experience a much larger university than Saint Peter’s.”

Habib arrived at Sogang taking courses in international business, psychology, production and operations management, political science, English fiction and chemistry.

“I was actually the only exchange student taking that many courses,” he said. “It was very difficult to maintain because many of the classes required you to read a massive amount of material daily. I was taking 18 credits.”

While Habib’s days were spent in the classroom, his free time in the evenings – when not studying for class or a big test – found him exploring the city of Seoul with a group of friends he made at the program.

“I made friends from France, Poland, Brazil, Colombia, Finland, Sweden, Germany, Japan and Mexico,” he said. “Now I have friends internationally and will always be welcomed in nine different countries. My mind has a better understanding of life outside of the United States.”
In addition to the educational experience he had at Sogang, Habib’s time abroad also afforded him the opportunity to become immersed in the rich culture of South Korea, which he described as “a very magical place to live in and experience.”

“Not only are the people very hospitable, but you feel like you have become one of them after indulging yourself in the culture and traditions,” he said.

After many months in Seoul, Habib became accustomed to the ways of life in South Korea. The practices he learned traveled back with him to Jersey City, even if perhaps unintentionally. Such was the case with the Korean custom of bowing to an individual as a means of thanking them.

“When I returned home, I was actually bowing to people since I got used to it in Korea,” Habib recalled.

Habib describes his experiences in South Korea as “unforgettable,” but relayed that there is truly no place like the scholarly homestead on John F. Kennedy Boulevard in Jersey City, NJ known as Saint Peter’s.

“In Sogang, there are about 90 to 110 students per class,” Habib said. “So you are basically just a number. Saint Peter’s offers a small classroom experience. I feel that professors at the University care for you and you are not just a number.”

Since Habib’s trip, a number of other Saint Peter’s students have studied at Sogang. In fact, 28 students from a wide array of programs have since participated in the semester-long program. 

Franciso DeJesus ’14, a graduate of the communication program at Saint Peter’s, found the experience to be completely life-changing. “To be surrounded by a lifestyle and culture so different from my own helped me to better understand how diverse the world is. Furthermore, being surrounded by fellow exchange students from all around the world helped [me] better understand myself. Anyone interested in studying abroad should go for it; it is one of the best decisions I have ever made.” 

“We are extremely pleased with the success of the Sogang University partnership,” said Wendy Garay, director of the Center for Global Learning. “The Center is always interested in new ideas for academic exchange and study abroad programs. We are currently working to diversify our portfolio and expand options for our students.”

For more information about study abroad programs at Saint Peter’s or the Center for Global Learning, please click here.