|▲ Some problems should be solved for managing the Junior Year Abroad program.
Chonnam National University (CNU) has dispatched a lot of students overseas every year through the study abroad programs including a Junior Year Abroad (JYA) program, which allocated 250 students last year. However, this semester CNU has reduced the number of students for the program to 50, and only 37 out of 50 have been sent to seven universities in six different countries. Moreover, the future of this program seems to be uncertain due to a shrinking budget. This article examines the problems of this program and the opinions of students who participated in it last year.
What Is the Junior Year Abroad Program?
The JYA program is one of the study abroad programs specifically for first and second grade students who would like to study overseas to increase their English ability. It was introduced in June, 2013 and last semester, a total of 177 students studied at five different universities in three countries; Malaysia, Canada and the United States of America.
It is said that CNU has expanded a similar program called the ‘Globalization Course’ operated in the first semester of 2013 in order to provide more opportunities for lower grade students to spend their time at foreign universities to improve their English skills. This year, the number of the universities at which students learn English has increased from five to seven, and the countries from three to six including France and Germany. On the contrary, the total number of students who have been sent abroad dramatically decreased from 177 to 37.
Loose Requirements and Selection Standards
For the JYA program, the Office of International Affairs (OIA) selects students for the program out of the applicants through the examination of applications and an interview screening. It is remarkable that most universities do not require a qualifying English test score from the applicants, with the exception of The Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada for which students with at least 700 or more TOEIC scores can apply. It is different from other study abroad programs such as the former Globalization Course and Student Exchange Program which required a certain number of points under the standard given by the OIA. Since there is no specific criteria in this JYA program any low grade students who want to study abroad can apply for the program.
As the OIA mentioned, during the interview with the Chonnam Tribune, the low criteria is a great chance for junior students who do not have any qualifying English score yet. Students also do not complain about it. One of the future applicants Choi Ah-reum is satisfied with the current selection system, "The greatest advantage of this program is that I can get an opportunity to study abroad without any authorized English test score. I think that this program will be great for me to check my English ability." But is it really good for students? If students do not have any objective data but self-diagnosis to check their English ability, it is not good to check whether their English proficiency has improved after participation in this program.
Short Preparation Period after Being Selected
The chosen students have about one or two months before leaving for an overseas university. Most of the participants pointed out the lack of preparation time. Because they didn’t have enough time to prepare they had to buy an expensive flight ticket. Furthermore, they could not study English and even make a plan for the semester they would spend in a foreign country. The short period makes it much harder for freshmen who have no experience in these kinds of things.
In case of this semester, the students were selected in a hurry so they barely had time for preparation. Min Yu-hyun (Sophomore, Dept. of English Lang. & Lit.) who spent her last semester at Salisbury University in the U.S. said, "The information provided by the OIA was helpful for the departure preparation but some of them were not. If the OIA recruited students much earlier, I could have saved some money for a flight ticket and prepared for English classes.” A participant student said in his report that well-prepared Japanese students exceeded Korean students in studying because the Japanese university selects and supports students one year before sending them abroad.
About the suggested problem, the OIA answered that it is inevitable to select the students in a short period because the organization does not know if there will be enough budget to support students for their studying abroad in a timely manner. Actually it was possible to send students abroad this semester with the budget money remaining from the second semester of 2013. According to their answer, due to the final approval of the necessary budget allocation, it is impossible to organize the program in advance. It goes with the fact that the number of students to be recruited for the program has decreased from 250 to 50.
The Need for Effective Communications
Participant students’ evaluation and opinions about the JYA program the OIA did not provide any valid data but said most of students the who have participated in this program last semester answered in a survey conducted by the office that this program was helpful for them. However, it looks a bit different from the reports that they submitted to the office after returning home.
The study programs at the universities they were sent to, according to some of the reports, students who studied in Canada or in the U.S. did not make many complaints, but the students who studied in Malaysia reacted differently and expressed their dissatisfaction with the universities’ program. A student wrote, "For me, the program management was poor. The placement test was not a good enough measure of testing students' English skills; we did not even understand the assessment system. Although students were placed in a high class, some of them did not keep up with the classes." Another student reported, "Some professors were unenthusiastic so we pointed out several things on the class evaluation sheet or we talked directly to the university administration but nothing has changed."
The OIA said they did not know about the students' inconveniences while they were studying abroad. "We knew about the dormitory fee problems that happened at Salisbury University and solved it. But we heard nothing about the class progress. As students reported it after returning home, the OIA could not do anything during their stay overseas." The manager of the JYA program said, "About the suggested problems, we notified the universities by e-mail demanding improved management. So now it is their responsibilities to improve the program operation. If the universities do not correct the problems then it is possible to stop the program with a relevant university." She added, "We reduced the number of students being sent to Malaya University, instead, we sent students to another university in Malaysia."
The Future of the JYA Program?
The CNU president Jee Byung-moon revealed that the new plan for CNU this year is "To increase the research power, employment rate and international index" while at the workshop with high executive members held on January 17th. He added the university will establish a new Overseas Office and invite more foreign students for its international index. However, he mentioned nothing about outgoing students. In fact, no budget for the JYA program has been earmarked from the university administration. Even the budget for the program is uncertain in the coming months. In this situation, the OIA is not sure whether they can keep operating the program and sending students abroad in the future or not.
The university administration should guarantee the budget for the JYA program when they set the budget since it is the program to make the international index of CNU better by increasing the number of students being sent abroad. It is important to attract more foreign students to CNU but it is also important to send CNU students to foreign countries and raise them as globally competent students as well, so the university needs to consider a measure to sustain this program.
By Pyun Ja-seong, Editor-in-Chief