A rapid advance or vast evolution is taking place at Chonnam National University (CNU). In 2009, CNU accepted only 10 exchange students and after six years, the number of international students has risen to nearly 1000 and is still counting. However, moving towards an increasingly international campus means there will be an array of diverse issues facing our students and university officials. The Chonnam Tribune investigated foreign student satisfaction with CNU and looked into their difficulties in order to make the university a more globalized and better campus.
|▲ Interantional students talking to each other in front of the BTL building
Struggling with Guided Information
Despite a usual orientation organized by the Office of International Affairs (OIA) in the beginning of every semester, the provided information still seems insufficient for international students. Jakub Kalinowski (Polish, Junior, Faculty of Business Administration) said, “I really was expecting some emails from the OIA with some guidelines including what to do in your first days here. Living in a completely new country makes owning a complete set of “survival kits” a must. Moreover, there are cases where they meet dilemmas of promised resources contradicting reality. The course list sent to foreign exchange students before arriving time was different from the actual existing one, which leads to huge confusion. Some students were told they would be given three free cafeteria meals a day for the whole week but upon the arriving date, the reality shows otherwise where they only receive two meals a day from Monday and Friday.
Kang Shin-hye (Coordinator, Office of International Affairs) stated that the occasional misunderstandings happen when there is a miscommunication between the partner university’s coordinator and their domestic students. To assist her international assigned students better in their first adapting week, she also invented a timeline-based to-do list for them which she suggested to propose to other coordinators next semester to better assist their own assigned students.
Dormitory Life Gets Rocky
A great deal of students is not happy with the dormitory policies. Many of them do not see the importance of dormitory curfew where you are obligated to return to the residence hall before 1a.m. or else one penalty point will be given to late returners from 1a.m to 4:59 a.m. Students choose to avoid being penalized by staying out the whole night or coming back in the morning because of it. Bbosa Deogratius (Ugandan, Senior, Dept. of Computer Engineering) believes that university students are grown-up enough to handle themselves without such over-serious policy. To answer to the aforementioned concern, Kim Jung-hwa (Official, Residence Hall Office) said that terminating the curfew is not easy due to various cases of noise pollution and unfortunate accidents caused by tenants.
On the other hand, penalty points during examination period and on regular inspection dates will not be given which is somewhat comforting and convenient for students. Furthermore, Alisha Alger (Canadian, Senior, Dept. of Sociology) also speaks out on her thoughts, “I don’t really understand the rule against having the opposite gender in the dorm. This rule hasn’t really bothered me much except for in the beginning of the semester when I was trying to get my internet set up, and it was even difficult to allow the tech guy in.” Stating that the cultural difference is one of main reasons to the formation of this policy, Ms. Kim mentioned even parents of dormitory residents cannot visit their children without permission. Any outsider visitor who is not granted permission in advance is restricted to entry. Cases of outsider burglars also make enforcing this particular rule of more importance.
Language Barrier Is No Piece of Cake
In spite of CNU’s rising level of globalization annually, communication between domestic and international students still needs to be improved. Jonathan Dason (Malaysian, Junior, Dept. of Political Science) expressed his perspective, “It's quite tough to interact with Koreans partly due to the language barrier and partly due to cultural differences. Differences in preference often drive people away from each other.” Furthermore, social or activity clubs for foreign students on campus are limited. To make matters worse, even the information and banners provided by some English clubs are in Korean, which reduces the chances of receiving international participation.
Another example of difficult intercommunication can be given by OIA’s buddy program. There is no doubt that without the tremendous help of this set-up, foreign students’ life at CNU or in Gwangju in general would be miserable. However, it is hard to socialize with or get assistance from Korean buddies because of their limited English communication skills. Alvina Joanna (Indian, Senior, Dept. of Statistics) shared her opinion based on her personal experiences with others’, “The speaking ability of Korean buddies must be tested before the program begins.” The relationship with Korean buddies is one of the most important first impressions of Korean friends for international students; hence, language obstacles between two buddies should not exist. Considering the stated reality, Ms. Kang agreed that a speaking test for Korean buddies will be considered next semester.
Behind the Curtains of English-only Classes
CNUians are no strangers to English-only classes. Most international students enjoy their classes and experience with almost no significant hurdles; whereas for Korean students, it is a totally different case. It is common in almost every English-only class to witness a substantial number of Korean students who lack self-confidence and struggle with their English abilities and cultural differences. They are less inclined to speak their thoughts in class and often learn by heart the script for their presentations in English instead of presenting it naturally like in their mother language. This, in result, affects the quality of the presentation style and creates distance between international and Korean students.
Voices of our professors were also heard. Professor Kim Kyun-soo (Dept. of Communication) encouraged Korean students to take more classes in English and be more open to the internationals. He stated, “I wish CNU could have more international students and both domestic and foreign students could be more open towards one another and understand each other better.” Professor Kim said it was a mutually beneficial learning environment for both students and him as well because he had opportunities to learn from the internationals. Kim Yeong-joon (Senior, Dept. of Veterinary Medicine) and Kim Ji-un (Senior, Dept. of Business Administration) who are active members in the international community also expressed their hospitality and hope to see and help more internationals on campus.
Positive Changes Are Needed
Lecturer Park Eun-kyung who is one of the best exemplary teachers of English-only classes believes that CNU students’ international sense is becoming stronger. To take part in this evolution, she has been encouraging her students to enroll in international programs and be more open-minded towards students with different cultural backgrounds. Globalization on campus is a complicated process that needs a thoroughly effective system to ensure the best education and support to all students. Efforts made by CNU officials as well as the contribution of professors, Korean students and also foreign students will make CNU more of a leading competitive institution well-known for its foreign-friendly environment and excellent education system.
By Nguyen Huong, Tribune Reporter