CAMP HUMPHREYS -- Thanks to students and faculty at Pyeongtaek University, incoming Soldiers, civilians and family members are given an intimate introduction to their new life in the Republic of Korea.

The university hosts the Korean Head Start Program, through the Eighth Army Good Neighbor Program, to promote cross-cultural awareness between newcomers and university students. Since 2006, 10,000 personnel, primarily from Area III, have graduated from the program.

This particular program got it start because of the many successful years that German Head Start was provided for personnel assigned to Germany. Instead of an entire week, the Korean Head Start is conducted Wednesday through Friday.

During the first couple of days, professors from Pyeongtaek University deliver lectures about Korean history, culture, politics, society in general and language. Classes are run at the second floor of Pierson Hall. Each day, participants are provided with a Korean-style lunch. In the afternoon, Korean language class is held.

Following a briefing by the Pyeongtaek police about traffic regulations, the university students participating in the program introduced themselves. The volunteer students and the newcomers usually get to go on a field trip to the Korean Folk Village, but on this occasion they went to Independence Hall, located in Cheonan. While there, they had Korean food together and then took the newcomers on a tour of how Koreans used to live.

"Learning the basics of Korea's Hangul system of writing was great," said Sgt. Robert R. Rivera, assigned to Company C, 3-2 General Support Aviation Battalion. "Also, the guest speakers gave us a better insight into Korean history and culture. I enjoyed the traditional clothing part the most."

A few of the class members got to dress in the traditional Korean "Hanbok."

"The (university) students took us around Independence Hall (located in Cheonan) for a tour," Rivera added. "They made it very fun and having them tell us about Korea's history was very engaging."

Lee Ga-hyeong, who goes by the American name Emily and is a junior at Pyeongtaek University, said "One of my major's seniors recommended this Korean Head Start program and I volunteered to make American friends and to improve my English speaking skills. For now, I can't speak perfect English, so sometimes I have trouble in communicating with Americans, but I am enjoying participating in the program. Since most of the Americans have cheerful dispositions, I could easily be friends with them."

For more information about this program, please contact Kim Kwan-hong at 753-6901 or email