Jennifer Haggerty, owner and head of Our World Montessori preschool and kindergarten in Niskayuna hasn’t yet learned the Korean word meaning goodbye.
But, she has learned how to say `annyunghaseyo,` the Korean word meaning `hello.`
This past week, Haggerty and the several dozen students in her summer camp program said `annyunghaseyo` to three young Korean boys who attend a similar Montessori school, Hambyul Kindergarten in Anyang, Korea, a suburb of Seoul.
The three boys, brothers Dennis Kang, 7, and Brian Kang, 10, and Alex Yoon, 6, spent the week immersed in American culture and participating in the camp’s hands-on construction unit.
Accompanying the boys was their English teacher Allan Wolf, 27, a Latham native and Shaker High School graduate, who moved to Korea with his girlfriend and began teaching at the Montessori school two years ago.
The three students, along with school principal Mi-ran Kim, school owner Bong-Wook Park and their parents stayed at Wolf’s childhood home.
During the mornings, the children visited Haggerty’s school off Balltown Road, where they practiced their English-speaking skills and worked on visual arts and crafts projects with their American classmates.
In the afternoons and evenings, Wolf served as the group’s unofficial tour guide, showing them the sights at Lake George and the Children’s Museum of Science and Technology in Troy.
Wolf said the children seemed most impressed by his family’s large backyard, where they play baseball and enjoyed several American-style barbecues.
`Where we live in Korea, everyone lives in apartments, and they can’t do that because it’s too urban,` said Wolf. `Having a backyard is a big thrill for them.`
The group’s weeklong stay was capped off by a day of traditional Korean dress, dance and music on Friday, July 18.
Dressed in traditional garments called `Hanbok,` the children sang a folk song about jumping rope, while their American classmates played Korean drums and danced.
According to Hambyul Kindergarten’s owner Bong-Wook Park, `Hanbok` costumes date back nearly 2,000 years. He said the colorful and flowing costumes are now worn during national holidays including the Korean Thanksgiving and the Lunar New Year.
Parents of several American campers dropped by Haggerty’s school to watch the traditional performance.
For Jocelyn Scott, of Burnt Hills, who teaches kindergarten at the Niskayuna school, the performance was especially meaningful. Scott and her husband adopted two children from Korea.
Her son Park, 5, and daughter, Kalia, 3, were immediately drawn to the young Korean boys.
`My kids are just like the Korean children,` said Scott. `Their personalities and the things they do are so alike.`
Haggerty and Wolf hope the immersion program will continue next summer. They also plan to continue their students’ relationship during the school year through a pen-pal program.
`We’ll e-mail pictures back and forth so that next year the kids will have an even smoother transition into the program,` said Wolf.“