Many YU students go abroad as exchange students. They go to many other countries to learn English, Chinese, Japanese, French and etc. The Yeungnam Observer met an exchange student and interviewed her about her life abroad.
2013.8 - 2014.5 University of Nebraska at Omaha
English Language & Literature, Kwak Min-seon
Why did you apply for an exchange student program?
I made a promise to myself to complete a course in teaching and apply for an exchange student program when I first entered Yeungnam University. Completing a course in teaching was the first priority, but I was not confident at practical English such as speaking and listening. So I decided to apply to an exchange student program to come closer to my dream.
Why did you select this University?
I went to the University of Nebraska at Omaha because this university had few Koreans. Also, it is located in the center of America, so people use the standard language and accurate pronunciation. Above all, I heard Omaha is a safe city and appropriate to learn English so I selected this university.
How did you study the test of English as a Foreign language (TOEFL) and prepare an interview?
I did an Outbound Pilot Program (OPP) from the YU International Center and I took TOEFL lessons for one semester. So I had no time to prepare for the interview at all. However, I usually used English in Australia through OPP and it was right after I returned, so I could answer immediately. When the interviewers asked me about the reason of choosing University of Nebraska at Omaha, I expressed my thoughts as much as I could by using my background knowledge with easy words so that everyone could understand.
How did you feel when you heard that you were selected as an exchange student? How did you prepare for it?
I waited earnestly to hear the notice that I passed and I was really happy when I heard it. I had to prepare lots of documents, but my family helped me and I prepared all things safely so that I was ready to go abroad. Before going there, I spent time with my close friends, instead of using time to improve my English abilities, because I would not see them for a year.
What were the difficulties living in other country?
I met a friendly roommate so I did not worry about my hometown, family, foods and the environment that most students were concerned about. However, in the
beginning, I thought my English did not get better and especially, my pronunciation was not changing. This gave me too much stress. Most people expected to master all about English, but it is hard to be a native speaker. At first, I thought I must do in speaking, although it is very difficult to use it. But as time goes on, I found out that it is natural that Korean speaks English inarticulately. Then, I felt more comfortable at using English.
What specific activities did you do in university?
In Korea, students do not have many opportunities to learn speaking and writing in English. I decided to learn them for a year, so I studied mainly in speaking and writing. For example, I took a lesson about British and American drama for speaking. In class, I wrote a script and put on an English play. For writing, I always wrote my opinion based on the newspaper and I also wrote a draft every week to correct over and over again. Finally, I was able to improve my English skills through these activities. Also, I participated in many interesting activities. First activity was an international cafe. I wore hanbok and made Yakgwa and Sujeonggwa to introduce Korean culture to foreigners. Secondly, because I have a
friend who adopted Korean baby, I helped her to write a letter in Korean and send presents to her son, who is in Korea due to his early age. Finally, the last activity was an information service. When other university students visited my university, I became a guide who introduces places such as museum and zoo.
After finishing as an exchange student, what was helpful to you?
Ultimately, I gained confidence in English and have an interest in speaking English. In the past, I took a conversation class in my major. I was scared of speaking
English so I remembered all sentences to take an exam. I was afraid of being wrong but now, I can speak English freely. I experienced many things for a year that made me to be more matured and I was able to see a world with a large field of view.
What is a tip for students who want to apply an exchange student program?
I really want to recommend students to go to the university that has no Koreans. If you always talk with Koreans, your English skill will not improve. Some
Koreans think they should communicate only with Americans. But I want to say that it is wrong. There are many foreigners who can speak English well and their
minds are open, so we can get along with them easily. I do not want students to make a distinction between American and other foreigners. If you have the
opportunity to learn English, you should approach and engage actively. Also, because Koreans often get nervous about speaking English fluently, they tend to be perfect on pronunciation and grammar after thinking in their minds. It is better to treat English with an optimistic mind like ‘I am Korean and when I speak in English, I am very passionate about English, nevertheless the structures of
Korean and English are completely different.’