Have you ever dreamt of making lifelong foreign friends before entering university? Or how about having pen pal friends and building true friendships regardless of nationality? I’m sure a lot of you are nodding your head in agreement as you read this. Sadly, many students postpone those dreams for various reasons. However, time waits for no one and the windows of opportunity narrow each year. Still, don’t fret. The Sookmyung Times in this edition is presenting the current state of Sookmyung’s exchange programs ensuring that your dreams of making global friends will come true.
How to Make Foreign Friends on Campus
At present, Sookmyung Women’s University has made sister/ brotherhood relations with 359 universities all over the world including China, Japan, America, Canada, Europe and Asia to offer its students the chance to broaden their global minds by experiencing and learning about other cultures. The International Cooperation Center at Sookmyung offers students a variety of help and advice on programs like Overseas Student Exchange, Global Exploration, Academic Seminar, and International Tutoring Help every year. Among them, The Sookymung Times looks at three on-campus programs that bring together Sookmyungians and international visa or exchange students.
Sookmyung Women’s University hosts a wide range of clubs on campus for cultural connections between international and Korean student bodies like GPM, URI, SIWA, SFV, Sookmyung Interpretation Volunteer, and Sookmyung Korean Language Education. Anyone interested in general natural interaction with international students on campus should look at participating in GPM and URI.
Another excellent way to meet up with students from other nations on campus is to participate in Sookmyung’s mentor-mentee program. Before each new semester starts, the International Cooperation Center recruits mentors and mentees on SnoWe and its official website. Sookmyungians who wish to make foreign friends are welcome to apply for either one-on-one programs or group mentor/mentee programs. In this program, the roles are reversed. International students become the mentors for Sookmyungians who are the mentees wishing to engage in cultural exchanges to learn about other nations and make friends.
Students wishing to get closer to international faculty on campus may also consider participating in an ‘English Club’ or visit the ‘Write Spot’. Application periods for the English Club program are posted on SnoWe during the vacation periods. The clubs give Sookmyungians the chance to learn new activities like yoga, discussion, guitar, and world travel concerns in English with foreign instructor. Sookmyungians looking to try out ‘Write Spot’ with a particular instructor should pre-arrange an appointment by referring to the instructor’s lecture timetable to guarantee a meeting. Instructor’s timetables are available for viewing on the school’s homepage, and during the ‘Write Spot’ appointment, instructors will help edit and proofread your English text as well as engage in fun chitchat.
Barriers Between Sookmyungians and International Students
In order to determine awareness of the possibility of international culture and language exchange on campus, The Sookmyung Times surveyed 461 enrolled students at Sookmyung Women’s University. The survey consisted of 6 questions and data was collected over a 1-week duration.
The first survey item asked whether respondents had had any interaction with international students. Shockingly, only 28. 5% of students surveyed said ‘yes’; the remainder (71. 5%) said no. The next question found that 61. 9% of students who said they had interacted with international students only met up with foreign students during lectures. Despite efforts by the university to create and host various on-campus opportunities, only 14. 9%, or 20 students said they had had interactions with international students through school programs. Reasons behind not interacting with international students on campus varied. Among the students who said they had had no interaction, 329 students (84. 2%) said they were unaware of Sookmyung’s culture and language exchange programs. The second reason was ‘fear of speaking a foreign language’. Investigation also found that some students said there was a need for the university to better promote the programs. 88. 2% of respondents said they are willing to participate in the programs, 78% said they wished to make foreign students, and 15. 1% envisioned foreign language skill improvement if they were to interact with international students on campus. In other words, there is clearly a desire among Sookmyungians to make foreign friends. One particular reoccurring comment was “I wish the programs were continuously implemented under more friendly terms and ran for shorter time spans. ” It could be that the university is creating the programs without students’ perspectives and wants in mind. Students seem to want less forced interaction and more fun free culture and language swaps. The university should also more actively promote its programs or establish new programs after communication and polling from students.
Analysis of the survey revealed that a lot of Sookmyungians had invaluable ideas for increasing the interaction between international students and Sookymungians, so The Sookmyung Times decided to present those to readers.
The most common request was that Sookmyung should be more active in program promotion. Most students who took part in this survey said that they didn’t know about the existence of clubs or programs. Had they known about them, respondents said they would have surely participated in one or a few of the activities. They requested that notices related to culture exchange should be posted on SnoWe and on the school’s official homepage as is done now, but they would also like to receive a SNS message or have notifications uploaded to Everytime. Other suggestions were for Sookmyung to consider setting up a promotion booth, where students could drop by and learn about the activities in person.
Second, respondents said they would like to see the establishment of new fresh culture and language exchange activities. Once such activity that was presented was for Sookmyung to set up smaller more intimate activities because the current ones are too burdensome and typically do not match students’ wants or expectations. Once example presented on the survey was the hosting of a small international festival, similar to a small get-together so that international students and Sookmyungians could get better acquainted. There were also recommendations to establish a ‘Mate System’ similar to what Hankuk University of Foreign Studies has created for its students. The program matches international students up with Korean students in one-on-one situations. This method makes it easier for students to get to know each other and gives the entire student body, both Sookmyungians and international students, a chance to participate rather than allowing only club or leadership groups those opportunities. Next, membership recruitment should be expanded to include international students. One foreign student in the survey commented, “Although I want to join a club, I was rejected because they do not accept foreign students. I wish they would open the clubs up to international students as well.”
Finally, a number of students hoped for an increase to culture exploration courses. While international students do register for course alongside Sookmyungians, there is little opportunity to discuss culture similarities and differences. Students suggested the need for courses such as “Exploring Korean Culture” that is open to both Korean and foreign students. In this type of course, students could explore Korean culture together and engage in group work both in and outside of class together. From the class, students would be able to arrange more opportunities to meet off campus and spend time enjoying each other’s company more effectively.
Hand in Hand
The world today is referred to as a ‘Global Village’. Now is the time to expand our global competence, which is a key to raising one’s competitiveness in society. Communicating and learning of other cultures is a great way for Sookmyungians to solidify a strong foundation and improve their abilities. It is also a great opportunity to broaden one’s social connections and understanding of others’ culture and backgrounds. A university is a microcosm of the world. To widen Sookmyungians’ vision of the world, both Sookmyung Women’s University and Sookmyungians, themselves, need to work diligently towards finding new means of greeting the global world by utilizing and creating new chances given to students on campus.