You may have seen exchange students in SMU. For Sookmyungians who want to know what does it like to live as an exchange student in SMU, the Sookmuyng Times(SMT) interviewed two of them who are enjoying their lives in SMU
SMT: Please introduce yourself.
Malte: My Name is Malte Kollenberg and I'm studying Political Science (Communication/Journalism and History of Economics) at the Otto-Friedrich University of Bamberg. As a would-be political scientist I think there are not that many regions in the world which are as interesting as Korea is. And as a German I have to say that Korea and Germany share a little bit of history. Germany is already reunited and maybe Korea will be in the future. As I'm interested in doing some research on this topic I chose Korea as my favorite country to stay in for one year.
I also wanted to go to Seoul much more than to any other city. My home university offers two exchange programs with universities in Seoul: on the one hand Korea University, on the other hand Sookmyung Women's University. As you know, I'm male, so I chose Korea University first and Sookmyung Women's University was my second choice. Destiny chose to send me to the Women's University. So I'm here. And it's great ;-)
Eryn: My name is Eryn Dailey-Demby. I am from Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia in the United States. How I came to Korea is a really long story. In short, I applied to an internship in London and did not get accepted. I was down for about 3 days and figured that it was time for me to start looking for other programs. I applied for an internship in Australia, volunteer work in Nepal and Sookmyung Women's University. I decided not to do the internship in Australia; the volunteer work in Nepal was good, but I could not contribute to my stay financially. I decided that in South Korea I could do the volunteer work and school plus get to learn a different culture. I love it here! So I came to Sookmyung by my lucky stars and a little bit of fate!
SMT: Have you ever felt any difficulty living as an exchange student?
Malte: NO! Of course there are some difficulties, but they are not connected to the fact that I'm an exchange student. These difficulties appear in Germany too. If you try to deal with them they are solved fast.
Eryn: The only difficulty I have living as an exchange student is the language barrier. Otherwise I have a great life. The language barrier is not something that can be fixed overnight obviously, but hopefully my Korean classes will at least allow me to understand the language by the time I leave. I have great friends who help me to speak and learn! I really appreciate them! I also, as an exchange student, have to buy all of my meals because there is no cafeteria at my dormitory. Meals are expensive and are sometimes inconvenient to acquire. I wish we could have a cafeteria here at the International House. I would prefer a higher rate to stay here and have a cafeteria to spending 70 to 100 thousand won on food a week.
SMT: Do you do any special activity in Sookmyung? If you have, please explain about it.
Malte: I started taking part in taekwondo classes three times a week. Never tried that before and when I first did it, it was so much fun so I decided to exercise three times a week.
Eryn: I am an intern at the wonderful Research Institute of Asian Women here on campus, I also do volunteer work at the Hanwoori Kumbubang teaching English to middle grade students. I participate in the Africa Club and in a study group on International Relations. With the end of the term coming up I am worried about how I will be able to keep up with everything.
SMT: What do you think of the curriculum at Sookmyung?
Malte: First of all I have not faced one problem. The classes I took are held in English so there is no problem following the topics discussed. I only took advanced seminars and no lectures so these are the only classes I can talk about. Of course there are some differences to Germany. And I'm glad it's like that, otherwise I would have stayed in Germany. The style of teaching is different. My personal opinion is that professors try to motivate students much more than they do in Germany.
Eryn: I think the curriculum here is very challenging and I love my classes. They keep me thinking about the world as a whole. I am challenged to read a newspaper everyday including the Joongang Daily to keep abreast on current events not only in the world but also in South Korea. I give regular reports on different countries and am required to write research papers at the end of this term. I am in a global classroom learning about how the events that happen in my country affect the events in another country from a hands-on view. I am learning about the world from a different cultural point of view. Sookmyung's curriculum goes far beyond the class-room for me and extends into my
everyday life from when I wake up and go to my first class and learn about S-leadership to when I jump in a taxi-cab and say "Please take me to SMU." The negative part of the curriculum is not having a definite bookstore for English text-books, and sometimes it is confusing to find the Xerox machine office and when you get there, most of the books are in English but the woman behind the desk does not speak English, so for foreign students this may be hard. I know that it was hard for me because I did not even know how to say hello in Korean when I went to purchase my books, and it was very frustrating.
SMT: If you have been part of any other exchange program in Korea, or if you have heard of them, what is the special feature of Sookmyung?
Malte: Hehe! For me and the other guys the most important feature of Sookmyung is - of course - the fact that it is a Women's University. ;-) I'm kidding! I spoke to some exchange students from Korea University, and they told me there are around 30 German exchange students there. This means, there is kind of a German class. I'm really happy that I get to have contact with a lot more Koreans at Sookmyung than I would in the case of Korea University. So it is a good feature for me. One thing that could still make the exchange students’ situation better: more students from different parts of the world. Australia, Africa, South America, East Europe and Russia! That would be a good improvement. But don't get me wrong. The situation as it is right now is almost perfect.
Eryn: The best feature of Sookmyung is the great community in which you are able to interact. The environment is one in which you are encouraged to meet and interact with people. There are programs that you can get involved with on campus, such as volunteer work or an internship and clubs also. So there is plenty of opportunity to get involved. One of the negative aspects of being in the Sookmyung environment is the lack of information on various events that may go on outside and sometimes inside of the Sookmyung community, that the international students may be interested in.
SMT: Tell me your impression of Sookmyung.
Malte: One word: AMAZING
Eryn: Sookmyung is LARGE! That was my first reaction. I come from a school in America that is only built to hold 1,500 students at its maximum capacity. There are only about 75 girls in my whole senior graduating class this year! So 15,000 girls was very different for me. Then I got to go around campus and see the embroidery museum and the history of the school which is very rich and long and I began to see that Sookmyung is a unique university in that it was the first women's university in Korea. What most impressed me about Sookmyung Women's University are the history and the level of challenge that I experience in my classes especially in my major classes. I have learned so much about the world just by being at Sookmyung and getting to befriend other people.
SMT: When did you feel a cultural gap in Korea, or in Sookmyung?
Malte: I thought a lot about this cultural gap thing over the last few days. Even before coming to Korea I did. Back in Germany students who have been to Korea before told me a lot about the differences I would be faced with. But most of what they talked about turned out to be not true. I decided to prefer "cultural differences" over "cultural gap. If you go to France or Poland or from the North of Germany to the South you will find some things are different from what you are used to. But nobody would call it a gap. It's just different. And of course Korea is different from Germany. But that's why I'm here and maybe that will be the reason I won't want to go back when the year is over.
Eryn: I think that the biggest cultural gap that I have experienced at Sookmyung so far is the language barrier. When I first got to Sookmyung Women's University I didn't know a word of Korean. I couldn't speak, read or write, so as I mentioned earlier in this interview, I had to buy my books at the Xerox machine place. Of course because at this point I don't know Korean, the only language I could communicate in was English. Well the woman behind the counter could only communicate in Korean. This made for a very interesting exchange. She finally looked at me and bluntly said "No English here." Granted that I was very frustrated at this reply, it served to remind me that I was definitely in another culture and that I needed to learn quickly how to interact with people or I would constantly be disappointed.