Attending an English lecture in Korea. Being friends with foreign students in Korea. It is not difficult if you are a Sookmyungian. Sookmyung Women’s University has proved that international students are attracted and managed well by the IEQAS (International Education Quality Assurance System) which was developed by the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology and the Ministry of Justice. In fact, SMU has planned to attract foreign students focused on Africa and Asia, so the people in charge have gone to the local site and selected good students since 2011. This work seems great, but upon closer inspection, will there be any shadows?
Move to Internationalization
In the area of incoming exchange students, SMU ranked 8th in and 19th in Asia. The number of foreign students who attended lectures at SMU was 713 in 2012, and their number is increasing. The world is moving toward globalization, so one goal is to make the university globalized, too. To achieve this, SMU made SNOW (Sookmyung Network for the Open World), in which students can attend world scholars easily. However, above all things, the most important thing to be global is to attract many foreign students and professors and make chances for students to communicate with them. Therefore, for these foreign students and ordinary students, SMU drew the plans to benefit both foreign students and SMU students. Global Peer Mentoring allows SMU students to be the mentors of foreign students one-to-one. Through this system, foreign students can be helped about hard things for them, like registering for courses or writing a paper. It can give ordinary students a chance to learn a foreign student’s language. Also, for foreign students, it is to aid foreign students’ early settlement in Korea and intensify the sense of belonging for them.
SMU also encourages international exchange programs. SMU was ranked 4th in the Joongang University Evaluation in the part of sending students abroad. Now, the number of SMU’s sister relationships is 238 universities in 39 nations, and about 700 foreign students study at SMU. President Sunhye Hwang designated this year as ‘Sookmyung Global Best’ year and is planning to make internal stability and difference with other universities. Moreover, foreign ambassadors, great scholars, and global business experts can meet Sookmyungians through the ‘Global Lecture Series.’ Also, in summer and winter, the international college is open. Also, Lingua Express, which is an international institute at SMU, hosted a mentoring program for SMU students and foreign students to exchange their languages and learn. Also, some university evaluation institutes reflect internationalization in the rank, therefore SMU’s globalization is needed.
What’s Your Opinion about SMU’s Internationalization?
-From Mongolia: I attend English-speaking classes, but Korean professors aren’t perfect in English. Sometimes they speak a few words in Korean, and it’s really hard to understand. When I want to ask the professor a question, both of us have difficulty in understanding each other. (Professors may not be able to understand because of my accent.)
-From China: I came to Sookmyung Women’s University as an exchange student. I think the good point of SMU’s internationalization is the enlargement of the exchange program with sister Universities. I couldn’t afford to study abroad from China, but I got a chance thanks to the enlargement of Sookmyung’s student exchange program. One thing I am regretful about is that there are not enough exchanges with Korean students.
- Department of Political Science & International Relations ‘11: I am a Sookmyungian, studying in Korea University (KU) as a credit interchange student. The strong point in KU is their internationalization through the number of foreign students, foreign professors, and English lectures. KU has a lot of lectures in English. Thirty to forty percent of classes in political science are in English. On the other hand, in SMU, only the Division of Global Service learns all classes in English. Other majors don’t have enough English lectures, except for second foreign language majors.
- Department of Statistics ‘11: I studied with exchange students from the Netherlands. Talking about exchange programs with them, we found something odd. In the case of the , Leiden University , 10-20 students majoring in Korean language visited SMU each year. However, the Sookmyungians who can go to Leiden were only 1-3 people. I think this is unfair. We want to get a chance to go abroad and feel the internationalization ourselves. At SMU, however, while many exchange students are coming, there is less chance for the Sookmyungians to go abroad.
Can We Understand Each Other?
Sookmyung Women’s University is heading its way to globalization rapidly. Yet, we have to look back at its current path to find out if SMU is just pushing its way, ignoring the problems caused from the move. To do this, the Sookmyung Times analyzed these problems from three different views, views of foreign students, professors and Korean students in SMU.
From the view point of foreign students attending Sookmyung, one of the problem was the lack of opportunity to interact with Korean students. The Korean students wished for more active interaction with international students also. In the survey by the Sookmyung Times, to the question, ‘Why do we want internationalization of SMU?’ 39% answered ‘Increase of interaction with foreign students.’ Yet, there are not much places or events for the exchanges of students, and the problem is getting even worse. The Global Lounge was one of the main places that foreign students could interact with Korean students. But, this year, the Office of International Affairs moved its room from the Administration Building to the Global Lounge. As a result, students feel uncomfortable visiting the Global Lounge or making full use of it. Kim, Division of Business Administration ’12 said, “I used to visit the Global Lounge often and had interactions with foreign students there last year. But as the Office of International Affairs crew moved their office to the Global Lounge, I felt uncomfortable going there freely.”
Professors say there are problems with communication with students in English lectures and the reverse-selecting of it. In order to get a high score in the globalization index, the university needs numerous English classes. So for the global SMU, it’s setting English Lectures every year and this semester 132 English lectures. Yet, is the quality of English Lectures enough? In the survey, among those who answered that they do not prefer the global SMU, 39% answered ‘Decline of English lectures’ quality due to reckless increase.’ In addition, one professor in the Division of Business Administration said, “When lecturing in English, not many students fully understand the lesson, so the explanation gets narrower to follow students’ understanding. It gets worse when it comes to foreign students. Many are neither fluent in English nor Korean, so it’s hard to communicate and help their study.” Another professor in the Division of Economics said, “Students tend to avoid high quality English lectures because the progress of the lecture goes fast and deep. Instead, they prefer relatively low-quality easy lectures to get good grades more easily. As a result, a higher quality English lecture gets unpopular and the relatively low quality lecture gets popularity and causes reverse-selecting.”
Now, let’s listen to voices of Korean students in SMU. In the survey by the Sookmyung Times, to the question ‘Which should be improved first about Global SMU?’ 28% answered ‘Number of foreign universities where Korean Sookmyungians can go exchanging’ and 28% answered ‘Reverse discrimination problem on scholarships.’ As we have seen in the above interview, exchange students come to Sookmyung easily, but the opportunity for Korean students are not enough. More opportunities for Korean students should be provided. Also, international students are able to get 100% scholarship when their grades are over 3.5, but for Korean students, only one student from a college can receive a full scholarship. The standard for international students is lower than for Korean students. Korean students complain that although foreign students do not participate well in the team projects or don’t study hard, they still get more scholarships than Korean students do.
Second Global Lounge Should be Provided
Will there be any possible ways to solve these matters? To solve the communication problem in English Lectures, maybe, the university should break its mind that only Korean professors can give English lectures. Employing more lecturers or foreign professors who are fluent in teaching in English could be a way. Not all, but some Korean professors are much better at teaching in Korean, and rather than forcing them to teach in English, teaching in Korean is more efficient and better for students. Also, to enhance the communication problem of international students with Koreans, the university must care more about them. There is a Sookmyung Language Institute, but in order to study Korean there, they must pay money. More free programs for them should be established.
Could SMU overcome the lack of interaction between foreign and Korean students? To do this, first, the Global Lounge should be arranged to make full use of it, not as some institution’s office. In addition, making more places like the Global Lounge, for example, a cafe to talk and interact with international students. Maybe, SMU establishing a club for students to exchange cultures can be a way. Currently most clubs that contain interaction with foreign students require high English ability or are leadership groups, like Global Buddy Group U.R.I. or Sookmyung Korean Study Volunteers. If a club can be established for any Sookmyungians to join and interact, the issue could be solved. Moreover, SMU should consider and listen to students’ voices. They are calling for nondiscrimination and feel a need to gain more opportunity in having chances for themselves to experience going abroad.
There could be more lights or more shadows to the internationalization of SMU. But, one thing for sure is that it’s not as perfect and bright as it seems outside. There is agreement that globalization should happen—most Sookmyungians, 88% in the survey, thinks positively about it. What the Sookmyungians want to say is that SMU should not just push the globalization harshly. They should look back at every step again more carefully and see the picture from the long-term view.