How to Improve YU's Exchange Programs
YU is currently hosting 76 exchange students. These students come from places like America, China, Japan, France and the Netherlands. These students came here to satisfy their academic desires. Recently, YNO received a report from one American student who was not satisfied with the exchange programs. This is a subject we covered in an issue last year, so we decided to follow up and see if anything was corrected by the university, and if the students are more satisfied than before.
Last year Basil Benjamin visited the YNO office. He came from South Florida University which has established a sister university relationship with Yeungnam University. He told us he was not satisfied with the dormitory system which demands the inclusion of meal service. He was also not satisfied with the classes. Classes for exchange students that are conducted in English were very low level. He told us that it was like middle school level. He complained about these issues to OIP (Office of International Programs), but he has received no response. He mentioned that not only he, but many other students have similar complaints.
Exchange Programs at YU
The definition of an exchange student is a student who comes from another university in order to take credit classes, usually for a year. The object is not only to study their subjects, but also to experience Korean culture and Korean language. YU has many exchange students. There are 3 from Vietnam, 1 from Taiwan, 2 from Japan, 1 from America, 3 from France, 2 from the Netherlands, and 64 from China. They pay tuition based on their own university's regulations.
American Exchange student anonymous
Student J has been in Korea for about a year, he is a friend of Basil's, and he wants to remain anonymous. He came to the YNO office with Basil.
Q|What do you think of YU's exchange programs?
A|Looking back on last year, it was filled with lies and dissatisfaction. Basil was disappointed with this university and he left YU. He is not the only person who felt disappointed. I already paid a year's tuition. I think YU ruined my academic career. I took a Korean language course which was a non-credit class, and it was not that helpful to me. The quality of my other classes would be appropriate for middle school students.
Q|What do you think of dormitory life?
A| It's like a small jail to me. The curfew is too early, I already paid for the meal plan, but I don't like it. It is awful to eat. I complained to YU as well as my home university, but nothing has changed.
In order to get a more complete picture we wanted to hear some other opinions from students who are really satisfied with the programs. We interviewed some Chinese students who are majoring in Economics and Korean language.
Exchange student Korean Language & Literature
Q|What do you think about your life at YU?
A|I don't have any complaints about the dormitory now. Actually, at first, it was hard to eat the meals because they were so spicy, but now I'm quite comfortable with it. During summer vacation, I had to leave the dormitory, so I decided to stay at a friend's studio apartment. During the holidays, we don't have to leave the dormitory. We can get our meals during those days as well. I think I manage pretty well. It's also nice that meals are served on the weekend.
Q|Does OIP care for you
A|Of course. They always care for me well. They promote many programs for exchange students to participate in. I visited Boyeoun Mountain for free last weekend. All the teachers were kind to me. I don't have any complaints about them.
Q| What about language problems?
A|Before coming to Korea, I studied Korean pretty hard, so I didn't have any problems with language. However, some other students could have problems because they don't know much about Korean. I also took a free Korean course last semester for 2 hours every day. It made me so tired and my schedule has changed since then, so now I take the class twice every weekend.
Q|What do you think about the lectures?
A|It is different with each professor. I take Asian Regional Studies and Principles of Finance, and the professors are really good to me.
Q| Is there anything you want say to other exchange students?
A|In my case, I prepared for studying abroad thoroughly. I studied a great deal about Korean culture and language. That preparation allowed me to adapt very well. Needless to say, it was not easy. However, I strongly recommend that exchange students understand what they are capable of, and take advantage of the programs that are offered. I read every single piece of information on the YU homepage as well as newspapers and magazines that are published at YU in order to get enough information. I also applied for every program that I qualified for, because opportunities do not just come to you. You must seek them out if you want to make the most of your exchange experience. For example, I took part in programs like international week and exchange students night. I know I am an example of someone who has adapted very well. Things could be more difficult for students from western countries. However, I think it is important to realize that complaining is not the only way to find solutions. If you have a problem, try to find a solution on your own first. The medical care center and basic services of YU are actually better than those of China.
After the students' opinions, we interviewed the staff at OIP.
Staff at OIP
Q|We have heard varying opinions from exchange students. Some are satisfied and some are not.
A|I understand that exchange students can have problems with our programs. However, I do not think OIP has done anything terribly wrong. We always take care to help our exchange students adjust. In advance, we consult each student at least twice shortly after they arrive. We offer free Korean language courses to exchange students who are not good at Korean. However, some students do not take the classes. In the case of one American student, he didn't attend the class. Most of the Chinese students adjust much better. I understand that there are certainly cultural differences; I think they have problems, too. Some students do not work hard in adjusting themselves to the programs, but we are still trying to work the problems out.
If we want to make real improvements in the exchange programs there are some basic things we must do. YU must give more exact information about the entire situation to potential exchange students. Many misunderstandings can be avoided if more exact information is offered. There must also be high quality classes offered in English. At YU there are 70 classes conducted in English, but this is not enough to cover all the majors. There are several methods for solving this problem, but we would like to propose one in particular. Hiring more and better foreign faculty could be the answer. However, YU does not have a policy to hire foreign professors specifically for exchange students. There is a serious problem at YU with English language lectures. OIP and the class management office recognize this. We asked the office manager at OIP about this issue. He said that students who take many classes and the professors who teach the classes are lower level than most foreign students because they are not native speakers of English. Therefore, they are not able to guarantee the quality of the classes. If they adjust the level of the classes to accommodate foreign students, they might become too difficult for Korean students. In order to solve this problem programs are being developed to target American and English students specifically.
Dormitory issues must also be addressed. Exchange students must live in the dormitory. Students who live in the dormitory pay boarding expenses including meal service. At Kyunghee University students are allowed to cook for themselves, and are not required to live in the dorm. YU students are not allowed to cook in the dorm due to accidents that occurred previously. In the past there have been fires in the dorms when students have cooked for themselves. In order to accomodate foreign students in the past cereals and bread were provided. However, this year's student council eliminated cereals and bread from the menu due to budget restrictions.
Student's attitudes must also be considered. Chinese students have protested to the OIP because their dormitories did not offer meals during New Year and Chuseok. There can be many problems when adjusting to a different culture. Exchange students are symbolic of the sisterhood relationship between universities. They represent their schools, so the attitude and behavior of the exchange student is important. Exchange programs are connected to a university's stature. These programs require good faith between the universities that their students will be treated properly when they are exchanged.
Exchange students can receive a quality education when they are supported by YU. However, students who have chosen YU have had many complaints about the programs. We should not have to bend to unreasonable demands, but we cannot simply disregard the concerns of the students. Recently, a student who went back to his own country said to us he absolutely cannot recommend YU to his friends. If opinions and problems like this persist, YU's efforts at becoming a global campus will simply be a failure.
Exchange students should have a sense of duty and a sense of obligation to represent their own universities well. However, it is also the responsibility of the host university to accommodate them to the best of its ability. Denying that problems exist or playing the blame game about who is at fault will not make the programs better. Ultimately students and the university alike want successful programs that's why we need to work together to make that happen.