There are 64 international students at KNUE, made up of 62 Chinese students and two Japanese students. You have probably met some of the international students on campus. If so, you have at some point likely wondered about their school life; have they adjusted to Korea and KNUE and gotten along with other students well? To get the answers to those questions, INDIGO has met several of these students from different departments and had interviews with them.
In most of the cases, international students came to know about KNUE from their professors or Korean language tutors when they were in their countries. They were interested in Korea as well as education and teaching, so they decided to enter or transfer, or apply as an exchange student to KNUE.
After entering KNUE, they study hard, just like Korean students, taking their major courses, teaching courses and elective courses. In their free time, the way international students spend their spare time is not so different from their Korean counterparts; they hang out with friends, exercise and study. They sometimes travel around the country as well.
However, their peer relationships tend to be limited to the same nationality. They rarely join the school clubs and hardly make friends while taking lectures. When it comes to the relationship with colleagues in the same department, there are only a few international students that spend time with their Korean classmates or engage in department events, such as MT trips or meetings with first-year students. Likewise, some international students do not get along well with Korean learners even though they belong to the same department; some are not even invited to the class group chats, which leads to fewer opportunities to spend time with Korean students.
One of the underlying reasons for this situation can be attributed to a language barrier. According to Office of International Affairs, KNUE requires foreign students to achieve a Level 4 in the TOPIK, Test of Proficiency in Korean, in order to follow the courses in KNUE. This is a stricter qualification that the Ministry of Education suggests. However, a high TOPIK grade does not seem to guarantee one’s proficiency in Korean. In fact, many international students expressed that they had a hard time adjusting due to their poor Korean language ability at the beginning. “At the beginning, I was poor at Korean, so I felt tremendous burden and discomfort when doing a group project with Korean students. Back then, I heard things, like ‘we, Korean students, will be in charge of everything about the project. You just come along with us on the presentation day,’ which hurt me. I was frustrated that I contributed very little to the group, and I felt useless,” said one Chinese student.
A lot of international students go through those hardships in terms of study and relationships. To support them, the Office of International Affairs is trying to develop programs to enhance interactions between Korean students and international students. A mentoring program is one such example. They set up the newcomers or those who have difficulties because of their poor Korean ability with Korean students.
International students are hoping for friendlier attention and understanding from other students. A Chinese student said, “Ordinarily, coming to a new country, the language barrier makes us feel daunted, but if you approach us with kindness and generosity, we can be good friends beyond borders.” Education with broad international perspective will be realized with a raised awareness of the interaction between international and Korean students.
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