BGSU's eCampus helps post-traditional student realize longtime goal of living in South Korea
Versatility of University's online program allows Sherrie Lynn Dominique to continue her studies while pursuing her dream
Sherrie Lynn Dominique had waited a long time and worked diligently to reach her goal of living and working in South Korea — so she wasn’t going to let the COVID-19 pandemic derail her plans.
The management and technology major, who is enrolled in Bowling Green State University's eCampus online program, moved to South Korea in February after navigating through several delays and changes to her original plans.
Dominique, who also is pursuing a minor in international business and a graduate certificate in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), has dreamed of living in Asia ever since she served in the Marine Corps after graduating from high school.
“During my time in the service, I spent a year in Okinawa, Japan, and fell in love with the Asian culture,” she said. “I have always longed to be back in that cultural setting.”
After her service time ended, Dominique worked in restaurant management jobs until 1991, when she began homeschooling the older two of her three daughters and also worked part-time in her father-in-law’s remodeling business. In 2004, when her oldest daughter started college, Dominique decided to pursue an associates degree in accounting at Northwest State Community College. She earned her degree while still homeschooling her youngest daughter, who was 6, and managing the finances of her husband’s small business.
When her youngest daughter went to college and pursued a minor in TESOL alongside her psychology major — with the intent to move to South Korea to teach English — she introduced Dominique to the Korean culture and language.
“I knew almost instantly that I wanted to pursue this course,” Dominique says. “She inspired me to go back to school and strive to fulfill the dreams that I had long ago abandoned.”
Because she was working full-time in 2018 when she began researching her options for graduate school, Dominique needed flexibility. BGSU’s eCampus featured asynchronous online classes — plus the University offered a TESOL certificate and a study abroad program that included options in South Korea.
“Another advantage turned out to be that BGSU helped me receive about 24 credit hours that transferred over from my military service,” Dominique says. “Even though I knew I had to take most, if not all, of my classes online, I liked the idea of attending a school that was within driving distance. That way, if there was anything I needed to take care of in person, I could do so. I was glad I chose BGSU because I ended up having to take some of my TESOL courses on campus.”
On top of her classes and studying, her 50-hour work weeks made time management a challenge. Dominique was up each day at 5:30 a.m. to be at work by 7 a.m. After working until at least 5 p.m., she went home and studied until anywhere between midnight and 2 a.m.
“Weekends were filled with catching up on personal and business finances, running errands and studying as much as I could to try and stay ahead in my classes,” she said. “About a year ago, our company management had a complete overhaul, and we were forced down to a 40-hour week. That helped immensely, and I was even able to take an extra class here and there.
“The biggest difficulty I have faced has been a lack of family time. I tried to make sure I used the time between semesters to spend with family. Anytime I could get ahead in my classes during semesters gave me a bit of extra time to spend with them.”
Making the Move
With the ultimate goal of living and working in South Korea, Dominique applied and was accepted into BGSU’s study abroad program. She planned to attend Sookmyung Women's University through the exchange program in the spring of 2020 — when the COVID-19 pandemic began.
“All of my plans went up in smoke, and I had to start regrouping to salvage what I could before the opportunity passed me by,” she said. “There was a bit of hope for the fall semester to open back up, but it ended up being canceled as well.”
Dominique searched for other options and found intensive language study programs at many of Korea’s universities. She gathered the necessary documents, applied and was accepted into Korea University, and weeks later she obtained a D-4 student visa for long-term study.
“I literally cried when I received the call,” Dominique said. “It had been a long road to get to that moment, and my longtime dream was finally becoming a reality. I broke the news to my employer and my family, and two weeks later, I was on a plane to Korea.”
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, she spent her first two weeks, beginning Feb. 18, in quarantine before classes began. This meant packing two weeks’ worth of food, leaving clothing and other essentials at home to be shipped at a later date.
“I was in what is called a goshiwon, which is a tiny living space with most of the basic necessities,” she said of her quarantine period. “It is not much bigger than my walk-in closet back home, but it has a tiny kitchen, bed, desk, wardrobe, refrigerator, washer and microwave, plus a private bathroom.”
Once Dominique was released from quarantine, she moved into the dorm at Korea University, where students are permitted to stay for the first semester. After that, she will work with a realtor to find an apartment.
“There will be a time of adjustment in her classes. The instructors only speak Korean, so it’s a sink-or-swim situation,” she said. “The class hours are long and a lot of independent study outside of class is necessary in order to keep up with the fast pace. It will be challenging, but I hope it will be a good experience and help me learn the language in a short time.”
Each session is 10 weeks, for a total of 200 class hours, followed by a three-week break, during which Dominique plans to explore more of Korea.
Contingent upon her courses at KU transferring as acceptable credits for two remaining BGSU requirements, Dominique hopes to complete her major and minor this summer. If she receives her bachelor’s degree this summer, she can complete one remaining course for the TESOL certificate in the fall, wrapping up all of her degree programs at BGSU.
“After that, I will focus on completing all six levels of the Korean language classes,” Dominique said. “I hope to do a bit of networking while I attend school, and perhaps secure a job by the time I am finished. I hope to eventually secure a job in management that will offer the flexibility of being able to teach English in my spare time.
“With my TESOL certificate, I would love to find a position teaching English to underprivileged Korean children, maybe even in an orphanage. There is a hierarchical society here, and children who come from poorer homes do not have the same opportunities as those in higher-status families. Learning English is a major advantage for them in opening the door to better opportunities. I hope that I can provide help in that area for children who could not otherwise receive extra help.”