Imagine being on the opposite side of earth, studying and getting along with foreign friends while in an exotic environment. This is one of the biggest topics of conversation among university students. However, it is onerous to plan and carry out an oversea trip on one’s own. To help, Sookmyung implemented the Global Explore Program to cultivate student global mindsets and promote active research in their field of studies. Starting in 2014, the programme will experience a wind of change. Then, is it to be a fair wind or a head wind?
Wind Blows, Up the Anchor
The Global Explore Program is an international program at Sookmyung Women’s University boasting a long history that started in 1999. The program was praised by both individuals and the school as it allowed students to investigate their major at major leading nations. However, some have claimed the program is no more than a one-time culture or overseas visit, and as such, it hardly contributes to active exchanges between Sookmyung and foreign universities. Furthermore, most prominent universities in the Americas and Europe prefer exchanges between particular departments rather than between universities themselves. Accordingly, increasingly effort is being made by Korean universities to form intimate networks between specific departments and interested overseas university departments. To keep pace with others, Sookmyung began to expand exchanges between majors, but the push was only really addressed by a few particular departments such as the Department of TESL and the College of Fine Arts. Moreover, the SM Global I Promise proclaimed in 2013 has brought about a wind of change to the Global Explore Program as the following table shows.
School authorities are expecting more international cooperation through Type 1 by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), maximizing SMU public relations, and so forth. Bae Dongjin at the Office of International Affairs stated that “Type 2 will continue to operate. It will provide opportunities for students comfortable with the traditional format and avoid uproar about the sudden change to the program.” In other words, Type 1 will replace the existing type in the future.
A Dense Fog Approaches
Although the Global Explore Program shows beneficial amendments, both Type 1 and 2 are laden with loopholes. Each program, despite being either departmental or student oriented has limitations and do not address equality. What are the schemes that block students from a solid global Explore program?
First, Type 2 only dispatches students to Asia. Leadership groups and SMU campus clubs show cases in which students may need to go elsewhere. Since Type 2 restricts students to Asia, many leadership groups or clubs cannot have wider experiences. Yoon Seoyoung, a member of Sookmyung Interpretation Volunteers, said, “Our leadership group needs connections with universities in America because of interpretation work, but the new Global Explore Program types make that hard to do.” The Global Explore Program now places more emphasis on the fact that SMU continues to dispatch students overseas. That is, the university is now focused more on establishing exchanges. The actual purpose of the Global Explore Program is to let students experience a variety of other cultures and deepen their major knowledge. Therefore, offering a variety of activities in accordance with students’ needs fulfills the real essence of the program.
Moreover, Type 1 which is departmentally oriented offers more opportunities for lower-income students. In Type 1, if lower-income students make up about 30 percent of the group’s body, they get some benefits at the stage of selecting the groups. In this regard, the system ignores fairness between Type 1 and 2. Still majority of students had financial difficulties when applying for the program. Lower-income students applying for Type 2 also need a support and should be given the same opportunity to participate in the exchange student program. Lastly, the Global Explore Program does not provide enough information to students. Even though the Sookmyung Community Website or some off-line explanatory meetings for overall international programs exist, information about the Global Explore Program itself is insufficient and few students planning on going abroad to study know of the programme. According to the Sookmyung Community Website, recent posting related to the Global Explore Program were last updated in November, 2012. Whenever students search the site for postscripts and information, the website is under construction and not up-to-date.
A Golden Compass
The Global Explore Program should overcome its flaws and be well-publicized among students. In order to overcome its problems, the two program types should be fair. In the case of Type 2, some portion of accepted students should be allowed to study abroad in other various countries rather than being limited to Asia—perhaps dependent on credit total, awards, and interview results. In addition, today, Korean society looks for talented persons who are creative and amalgamative. Hanyang University has been running a program with students from the College of Engineering, Fine Arts and Literature working together and obtained a patent on new technology that allows consumers to acquire product information from a touch screen. Likewise, SMU should also promote such mutual exchanges between departments by applying this to Type 2 of the Global Explore Program, which allows students from diffirent major can visit developed countries altogether. In addition, SMU needs to prepare a scholarship program for lower-income students from all walks of life with the help of the SMU alumni association or the university itself. A system of financial support for the 30 percent of lower-income students should be enforced in Type 2 just as in Type 1. According to a survey of 250 Sookmyungians, 36 percent of students feel the most important change needed to the programme is establishment of a scholarship for lower income bracket students.Moreover, the Sookmyung Community Website should be redesigned to enable students to acquire abundant information. Through the website, students who prepare for the Global Explore Program can have a chance to contact former participants and ask for crucial tips. Experienced alumni of the Global Explore Program can update postscripts and offer useful tips on the website, creating a strong network among students related to the program. Just as SMU leadership groups promote themselves on SNS in order to strengthen their position among students, the Global Explore Program can also form a leadership group to provide students with sufficient and helpful information.
Sailing Uncharted Waters
As knowledge of the Global Explore Program spreads amongst students, more students can have the chance to study abroad. With the help from the university, students should endeavor to initiate exchange programs and develop the programme website. Experiencing a new culture and studying overseas can be valuable memories for students. Going abroad can feel like sailing uncharted waters, so SMU students need a golden compass from the university to overcome problems. Let the sailing begin!