Callie Rhoades says a research opportunity at the IU Institute for Korean Studies helped her go from studying Korea to pursuing a Master’s degree there. As an undergraduate, she took advantage of the George Washington-Indiana University (GW-IU) Undergraduate Research Exchange Program, and is now pursuing a Master’s in Korean Studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, South Korea.
“The GW-IU research exchange program is absolutely amazing for learning how to put together a research paper and networking with other students in the same field as you,” said Rhoades, who graduated from the IU Hamilton Lugar School East Asian Languages and Cultures program.
The GW-IU research program provides students with faculty mentoring to help them write a research paper on any topic related to Korea. The program culminates in students presenting their work at the annual GW-IU Korean Studies Exchange Conference to faculty at both universities.
“My topic was about multicultural families on reality TV shows in Korea,” said Rhoades. “There is a TV show in Korea called The Return of Superman. When I did my research, they recently added a family where the mom was European. My research focused on how the TV show represented the multicultural family. The absence of Southeast Asian families from the show was a real disconnect. Although something close to 70% of multicultural families in Korea have Southeast Asian moms, the show chose a family with a white European mom, which represents a very small portion of the reality for multicultural families and issues in Korea.”
Rhoades said the GW-IU research opportunity gave her the skills to organize data to craft strong arguments, and her faculty mentors, including Korea Foundation Professor Seung-kyung Kim, were invaluable.
“I can say, ‘hey this show is being kind of racist’ toward Southeast Asian people. But in an academic paper, I have to prove that,” she said. “I have the hard skills to go through sources and categorize information, so I can work through 140 episodes and break it down into data that is usable to develop and articulate a logical argument.”
In her Master’s program, Rhoades is now writing a media review on Korean popular TV dramas (K-Dramas) that examines how gender is portrayed.
“In these episodes, the woman will pretend to be a man to fit in with people who already think she’s a man. Since these are romance dramas, there is a facet of queerness. The male lead falls for the female lead, even though he thinks she’s a man. My research focuses on how this relates to ideas of gender roles, and femininity,” she said.
Rhoades said the GW-IU research program is perfect for any student who is interested in pursuing a Master’s degree or career in academia.
“It’s a perfect opportunity to learn how to put together a logical article for a paper that is publishable,” she said. “I recently published a paper, so having a foundation of writing an academic paper was helpful.”
Rhoades’ paper is titled, ‘Aespa’s Kwangya as a New Representative Space for Fans: Building fandom in the era of Covid-19.’ In it, she explores the Korean linguistic term, Kwangya, first used by K-Pop groups including Aespa, now used internationally by fans as a form of community building.
Rhoades has been in Seoul for three years now and is on track to graduate in June 2023 before pursuing a Ph.D. program or working in Korea or the U.S.
Information on the GW-IU Undergraduate Research Exchange Program can be found at https://iks.indiana.edu/undergraduate/gw-iu-undergraduate-research.html. Applications will be accepted through May 5, 2023.