Nikole Smith and June Leal are more than just the typical Texas State SJMC graduate students; these two jet-setters can now claim to be international scholars specializing in Korean popular culture. Nikole and June were able to merge their love for traveling and scholarship by collaborating on a research project, titled #OppaNoticeMe: The Influence of and Idol Instagram Account on Sasaeng Behavior, and presenting their research in Seoul, South Korea this past semester.
The Seoul International Conference on Social Sciences and Management held its third annual conference in February, which was a fitting choice for these two Texas State grad students when considering where to present their project. Nikole and June began working on this research endeavor in Dr. Rao’s International Communication course nearly one year ago and continued to work closely with Dr. Rao as they added the final touches to their submission. Their research focuses on the correlation between K-Pop, or Korean pop music, idols’ Instagram pages and saesang (fan) behavior.
“As a fan of K-Pop since 2005, I always hear stories about these saesangs’ behaviors and it just blew my mind at the lengths they would go to get these idols’ attentions,” said June.
The two hope that this will provide an understanding on how idols influence fan behavior, a topic that is scarcely covered in Korean popular culture research.
Smith and Leal are no strangers to traveling abroad, both having traveled to South Korea in the past, which ended up being a great excuse to travel once again.
“I honestly never thought that doing a project over K-Pop idols and saesangs would get me back to Korea. It’s one thing to present in front of your classes, but to present in front of other people in your field from all over the world is another level,” said June.
Not only were the duo able to present their research in the homeland of K-Pop, their research was noteworthy enough to secure publication in the International Journal of Communication and Media Studies.
“I would have never imagined that this project would have actually gotten us to Korea, let alone get published,” said Nikole.
These two SJMC grad students can proudly boast that their unique research article can be found in the April 2017 edition of IJCMS, a goal of nearly every grad student of the discipline.
As far as tips for traveling during your academic career, Nikole and June recommend aligning research undertakings with a topic and location that you are passionate about. Once you figure out your passion, the rest will fall into place. “Take the chance and do it! You never know where your research will take you are what things will happen when you travel. You can learn new concepts and meet interesting people, plus new opportunities may be presented in the future,” agreed Nikole and June.
If not on the campus of Texas State, these two can be found sipping on a South Korean favorite, bubble tea at the local San Marcos shop, Kung Fu Tea. As any SJMC grad student or instructor who has had the fortune of having Nikole and June in class know, these two live and breathe their research interests. Have a question about anything K-Pop or idol influences? Stop by and visit our resident experts for some invaluable knowledge about international research. You won’t be disappointed!
Check out these photos from their adventures in South Korea for your daily dose of jealousy!