- Associated Press - Monday, July 20, 2015

WISCONSIN RAPIDS, Wis. (AP) - Madeline Clasen has followed her passion for Asian culture from South Korea to Taiwan and even to the small, rural villages of the Yunnan Province in China.

“It’s so different from everything around here,” said Rebecca Clasen, Madeline’s grandmother. “I think she likes the quietness and intensity of it. Their culture is very involved with nature and how humans interact with nature and she is very interested in that.”

Madeline Clasen’s interest began to flourish during the three years that an exchange student from South Korea stayed with her family, Daily Tribune Media (https://wrtnews.co/1O1Cbz1 ) reported. She and the student developed a strong friendship that spurred Clasen’s desire to travel to Asia and learn more about her friend’s culture.

“It just became this whole thing where I started learning Korean because I wanted to go visit her in Korea . I got really into the history. I took a class (through) Stanford with Korean history and I was like, ‘This is what I want to do. I just want to study this for the rest of my life,’” said Madeline Clasen, 18, daughter of Tom and Michelle Clasen.

The Lincoln High School graduate traveled to Northeast Asia in March. She spent two weeks in South Korea before traveling to China.

“In China, I stayed with a host family in Shanghai, so I lived in an apartment in Shanghai. That was the coolest thing because it’s really hard, I think, when you’re from an outside perspective to understand how people from other cultures live. But to be accepted into somebody else’s family and be treated as their daughter, it really opens your eyes to how similar, but how different the culture was,” Clasen said.

During her time there, Clasen studied at East China Normal University through the Council on International Educational Exchange, a program that organizes study-abroad opportunities, internships, professional training programs and more.

“One of the biggest things that changed how I thought about the world was I went to Yunnan. … It’s actually the poorest province in China,” Clasen said. “Just to meet these people and talk with them and see how they’re living was really eye-opening because . their experiences are so different than us.”

In further pursuit of her passion, Clasen will be spending her summer as a counselor at the Concordia Language Villages in northern Minnesota, where children are immersed in every aspect including the language, food, and customs of different cultures.

She will be working in the Korean Village that she attended the past two summers. This will be her first year as a counselor.

In the fall, she will study in South Korea for a year before attending the University of Southern California, where she will pursue a degree in East Asian Area Studies.

Clasen would ultimately like to teach at the college level.

“Even just trying to talk to a Chinese person and become friends with them is actually really difficult because they have such a different base of experience, but just to understand where they are in the world and how they’re coming up. It was pretty crazy…I think it is important that people open their eyes to Asian culture and understand it.” said Clasen.

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Information from: Daily Tribune Media, https://www.wisconsinrapidstribune.com

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