Gabby Cunningham, 17, is a high school senior from Middleton, Wis. During the past two summers, she participated in STARTALK Korean Language & Culture Academy, a free four-week program on the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus in which students learn to communicate in Korean and explore Korean cultural traditions. They participate in interactive activities, visit Korean sites in the Chicago area, and create final video projects.
Cunningham’s school counselor knew how much she loved Asian culture and suggested she try STARTALK. The experience was so transformative that she’s decided to be a Korean interpreter for her career.
STARTALK shows us different Korean cultural activities, food, clothing, and dances. My favorite part of the program is the dancing: Last year we did traditional dancing, and this year we did pop dancing. We do cooking and drumming, too. I can’t put into words how amazing this program is.
A lot of us in the program are interested in going to UW–Madison, so it was really helpful to get on campus, walk around, and make it ours for a summer. Even if we don’t go to UW–Madison, we’re given these resources on campus. I asked the director of STARTALK so many questions about UW–Madison and what to do post-graduation because I’m so terrified. It’s great having that ability to ask someone questions that my parents can’t answer.
At a certain point, I realized all of us in the program were a family. That was one of the greatest feelings. We got really close really quick. It was awkward in the first three days, but it was like a switch went off.