For Paul Raffile ’15, learning about international justice and security is more than an academic pursuit.It’s not only that he’s studying at the Korean National Police University as part of a new UNH exchange program, but also that the program there includes sessions with people from around the world. Recently, for example, he sat in on a session with 30 policewomen from Afghanistan who are also training at the KNPU.
The women shared their challenges in a country where women have struggled to slowly gain freedoms since the end of the Mujahedeen era and Taliban rule, Raffile said. “This was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience as they spoke candidly about the reality of their country, debunking many beliefs I had constructed from its portrayal in the media.”
Raffile, of Wallingford, is no stranger to international study. In the fall of 2012, he studied at Goldsmiths at the University of London, and in the fall of 2011 he was a student at the CEA Global Campus in Seville, Spain. For the fall of 2013, he was looking for a program that was different from the ones he previously enrolled in. “KNPU is one of the top police universities in the world,” he said. "It is an honor to be studying here.”
“Studying international security in South Korea is the epitome of experiential education,” Raffile continued. “I am able to see firsthand and hear directly from Korean citizens about their opinion of North Korean politics and conflicts. I recently visited the Korean Demilitarized Zone and Joint Security Area, where I witnessed the continuing standoff between the North and the South in the aftermath of the Korean Armistice Agreement. Exposure to these experiences is something that simply cannot be observed in the U.S.”Since the courses the exchange students are taking are taught in English by Korean professors, many of whom have worked in international or national policing or investigation agencies, language is not a problem.
Raffile is, however, learning Korean, and he isn’t shy about noting that the class is the most difficult in his curriculum. “The Korean language is vastly different from English – and any other Western language – in every way imaginable,” he said. “During the first few weeks, attempting to read Korean characters was almost nauseating. Weeks of practice later, we can now read Korean words, but we still don't know what most of them mean. I admire the Chinese and Vietnamese students as they're learning a third language in a course taught in their second language. I have set a goal for myself to become proficient in the language before the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.”
Raffile finds the other students at the KNPU very friendly. “Many speak English, and they are eager to talk with us,” he said. “I've been invited to go out on daytrips, hiking, sightseeing and even to visit some students' homes.”
As for Korean society, Raffile has been surprised by the honesty and trust he has found in the people. “I've seen cash drawers left on counters with signs for customers to pay for their items and take the proper change and iPads left out to advertise for businesses,” he said. “There was one incident where I overpaid by $3 at a restaurant and the owner ran halfway down the road to return the extra cash. These are situations that unfortunately do not happen often in the U.S.”