Universities in Korea have been competing to attract foreign students to their campuses more and more over the past few years in order to keep pace with the globalization of the world. Yeungnam University is also raising its students’ global awareness by facilitating cooperative activities with foreign students. This is part of the YU Glocal Initiative. However, some universities have been criticized due to budgetary waste along with indiscriminate recruiting of foreign students. Therefore, the Observer will look into YU’s relationship programs between Korean and foreign students. Furthermore, we inquired about the university’s stance regarding these programs.
Glocal is a compound word made from Global and Local. The title YU Glocal Initiative came about because of the failure to take action and a lack of vision and strategy in the Daegu area regarding international student recruitment. Another reason is that YU’s competitiveness has weakened. In an appraisal ranking of domestic universities, YU has dropped from 18 to 28 (2000 to 2009) over the last ten-year period. In order to improve on these shortcomings, YU created the Glocal Initiative. The global objective of this initiative is to move YU into the top 100 universities in the world, and the local objective is to ensure that YU maintains a key position in the region. Moreover, the Glocal Initiative has seven sectional strategies including education, research, and administration. There are 21 Action Plans and 100 detail plans that are organized within the seven strategies.
There are 838 foreign students at YU. 651 of these are international students or degree seeking students. There are also 80 exchange students who are here for a few semesters. Finally there are 107 language study students. 200,000,000 won in scholarships have been given to foreign students in 2011.
There are several Glocal Initiative programs that are designed to assist YU foreign students with adjusting to life in Korea, and the Observer decided to take a closer look into some of the relationship programs between YU Korean and foreign students.
The Buddy Program
First, there is the Buddy Program. 82 Korean and 82 exchange students participated in this program during the first semester of 2011. During the semester, one Korean student was paired with one foreign student, so the Korean student could help the foreign student better understand Korean culture and deal with matters related to campus life. For example, Korean students often invited foreign students to their homes on traditional Korean holidays or sometimes just for the weekend.
Of all foreign students, only YU exchange students can take part in this program, and in fact it is mandatory for all exchange students.
One problem with the Buddy Program is there is no support system during the semester. Participants receive a completion certificate upon finishing this program. However, we question whether or not the certificate has any real meaning.
Maintaining contact with foreign students is a big problem. Buddy partners can meet after a class called, “Understanding of Korea for exchange students,” which exchange students are obligated to take, but after that there is no established schedule. Moreover, it takes about a month for foreigners to receive their alien identification cards which are required in order for them to buy a cell phone. This makes it difficult to contact them during their first month in Korea. To solve this problem, telephones are placed in each room of the dormitories that house foreign students.
Window to Korea (WTK)
Another relationship program is Window to Korea (WTK). 19 teams participated in the program during the first semester of 2011. Each team consists of 2-3 students. There must be at least one Korean and one foreign student. The purpose of the program is to have each team visit famous tourist destinations in Korea as well as historical sites. About 20 teams are selected on the basis of their applications and submitted plans every semester. Selected teams receive 300,000 won per team for every trip, and they are required to submit a report afterwards.
In order to participate in this program, Korean students must approach foreign students on their own. However, the application period is at the same time as the midterm exam period, so it is difficult for many students to prepare a proper application. The period of travel is between midterms and final exams, so some students feel this is inconvenient. The Office of International Programs stated that they would consider the problem if students continued to complain.
Language Partner Program (LPP)
Finally, there is the Language Partner Program (LPP). 88 students participated in this program in the first semester of 2011. Among the participants, there were 80 Korean students, and there were eight exchange students. For the second semester 15 exchange students have signed up, so there needs to be 150 Korean students. Each team consists of a five person study group, so there are two teams per one exchange student. These students voluntarily study English with the exchange student for four hours a week. The exchange students are selected based on an English interview after they indicate they are willing to participate.
However, 63 of the 80 exchange students are from Asian countries, so there is a shortage of native English-speaking students who are eligible to participate. Moreover, there were no study areas assigned to meet the needs of the program. Another issue was that no support funds were given to Korean students, but exchange students received 400,000 won a month for book fees. Korean students also have complaints about the foreign students because they are often absent. In this case, the problem is solved by holding supplementary study sessions.
Opinion of YU foreign students
The Observer asked the opinions of some foreign students who have participated in the relationship programs. The students we spoke to lived as exchange students for 1-3 years. Chinese, Finn, and American exchange students were all pleased with the Buddy Program. They said that the programs helped them adapt to life in Korea and helped them to better understand the Korean culture. An LPP participant responded, “I can communicate better with Korean students.” This comment was similar to those of many foreign students at YU. On the other hand, Korean participants responded that overall the relationship programs are good, but some problems need improvement. We approached the Office of International Programs about these opinions.
The survey of YU Korean students
The Observer conducted a survey to get a better idea of the general thinking of Korean students about the relationship programs. The survey was conducted over two days and 134 Korean students responded.
First, we asked about their opportunities to interact with foreign students. The majority of respondents, 45 percent, replied they didn’t have any chances to interact with foreign students. We also asked about their intentions for seeking interaction with foreign students. The most common answer, 40 percent, replied that “they had intention to seek interaction with foreign students.” Regarding the question of what kind of relationship they wanted to have with foreign students, most answered they would like to get along with them as friends. We also inquired into reasons why they didn’t want to have interactions with foreign students. The most common response was language barriers. Finally, we asked them whether or not they participated in relationship programs. All but seven students answered that they had never participated in any of these programs. The top reason was “because I didn’t know about them,” which accounted for 42.5 percent of all responses.
Many students thought that YU relationship programs were lacking across the board. Meanwhile, some students are willing to interact with foreign students, but language barriers are the biggest problem. In addition to these problems, the fact that many students replied that they didn’t know anything about these programs indicates shortcomings in the Office of International Programs' promotional efforts.
Other problems with relationship programs
Regarding the relationship programs, there are more problems that we did not mention above. One of them is a paucity of information on the website of the Office of International Programs. It was difficult to find concrete information about activities on the website. Moreover, communication between the International Cooperation department and International Services department is lacking. Most relationship programs take place under the guidance of the International Cooperation department. However, international students who account for most of YU’s foreign students are managed by the International Services department. In addition, the Buddy Program for Chinese international students is the only one covered by International Services department. Another problem is that two (Buddy Program and LPP) of three relationship programs only deal with exchange students.
YU relationship programs between Korean and foreign students were a key point of the Glocal Initiative because they were designed to let students experience global relationships. Therefore, these programs require more careful preparation. According to their stated purpose, YU relationship programs are lacking compared with the number of students involved. Public relations for these programs also need improvement. To be a truly global university, active concern for students is important, and YU will have to accept these concerns if it wants to accomplish its mission.