CAMP HUMPHREYS -- The U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys Internship Program, an important part of the garrison's community relations initiative, has been in operation here, going on five years.

The ninth iteration of the program will be competed in the coming weeks, with the tenth starting in mid-July.

This unique program, developed to provide local university students an opportunity to work hand-in-hand with U.S. Soldiers and civilians stationed here, has seen approximately about 100 local Korean university students successfully complete six-month internship tours of duty with organizations across the garrison.

"The internship program began in 2010 and each year we have trained two sessions, with an average of 12 interns per session," said Alfonso "Al" Laxamana, who serves as the Army Community Service Employment Readiness Program manager and doubles as the internship program coordinator.

"The advantage of the internship program is that it enhances classroom learning by integrating academic curriculum and real-world work experience," he added. "The program also enables students to apply classroom theory to actual work situations. It also confirms or redirects their career decision-making through on-the-job experience in a chosen field. This is a wonderful program which materially benefits both the U.S. Army and the Korean university system. Lastly, it gives the interns the opportunity to improve their English speaking ability by being surrounded by English-speaking office mates."

The current class has 15 students, from Pyeongtaek University and Namseoul University, in Cheonan. They are assigned to the Public Affairs Office, Visual Information Branch, Army Community Service, Family Readiness Center, Directorate of Emergency Services, Army Education Center and Family and MWR Marketing, among others.

Seo Ji-yeon, a Pyeongtaek University student working at the ACS Family Readiness Center, said "For me, I was a little nervous before I started the internship, but since, I have become more responsible and confident. Since I was the one who clients see first when they came in the building, I tried to look livelier and smile, which helped me improve my attitude. My co-workers and supervisor treated me very well with food, conversation and everything. I raised my confidence by presenting our Army Emergency Relief programs to newcomers. When I first came here, I barely understood my supervisor's accent, but now my English speaking ability has improved by having lots of conversations with workers. I also help them with Korean from time to time. It's been an absolutely great experience."

Park Sun-young, a student at Namseoul University who works at the Education Center, said "I think the Internship Program is a wonderful program. I learned how to communicate with Americans through making friends here. We are different. I am Korean, my friends are American. But, we can talk about something and we can share our feelings with English."

She added, "I also learned about customer service from everyone through my work. I have gained vast experience from the program."

Lorenzo Ranches, a recreation specialist at the Community Activity Center, said "The major advantage for the interns is utilizing their English speaking abilities in the workplace. They meet different people from around the world every day. The experience to be able to get out and communicate with others is a major advantage. I think it's a wonderful program. I enjoy every moment teaching our new interns customer service. I hope that the interns leave the program confident with their English speaking abilities, no matter where they go."

Laxamana said that there are plans to extend the program to other local universities. Starting with session 10, students from Hoseo University, located in Asan, and Kongju National University, in Yesan, will be participating in the program.