How university attendance affects the personal development of highly-educated middle class Korean reentry women
Jang, Suh Young
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The purpose of this qualitative study was to understand how university attendance affects the personal development of highly-educated middle class Korean reentry women. The constant comparative method of data analysis was applied to person to person indepth interviews of 13 Korean middle class full-time housewives aged 25 to 45 who already had a Bachelor’s degree and who enrolled as students at a four-year university, a graduate school, or an university-affiliated lifelong education center. Four research questions were examined: 1) What motivates them to return to school? 2) What makes the experience of returning to school meaningful? 3) How have they changed as the result of the experience? and 4) How has the social and cultural context in Korea influenced their returning to school? The findings of the study were that reentry women returned to school in order to get a job, have their own meaningful activity, pursue an interest in learning, and escape from the state of being a full-time housewife. The experience of returning to school was meaningful for them in that they re-established themselves as independent individuals, gained structure in their everyday lives, gained recognition from others, obtained a sense of accomplishment, enlarged their living area and met new people, and felt the joy of learning. From their returning experiences, they began to enjoy happiness and satisfaction with their lives, dreamed of new possibilities and hope for the future, and gained a new identity which included enhanced self-confidence, improved self-esteem, and heightened critical consciousness. Being forced to be full-time housewives within the Korean social and cultural context, they sought a “breakthrough” from the unsatisfying state of full-time housewives. Respect for scholarship in Korean society made their return to school the acceptable escape. Three conclusions were drawn from this study. First, the restoration of a personal identity underlies the multiple motivations for returning to school. Second, returning to school has a significant impact on the personal development of reentry women. Third, the Korean context both precipitates and shapes the experience of returning to school.