중앙데일리

Regional universities supported by homecoming

Apr 12,2014
Jeon Jae-hee, third from the left, a former health and welfare minister and a graduate student at Yeungnam University, walks with students on Homecoming Day. The convention was held April 4 at the school’s Chunma Arts Center. By Gong Jeong-sik
Fifty student representatives and about a hundred alumni attended Homecoming Day at Yeungnam University on April 4 at the school’s Chunma Arts Center.

The event aims to provide students with an opportunity to meet influential graduates, many of whom are now powerful leaders in the country’s political, financial and legal fields, who can mentor them and provide insight on how to overcome the social limitations imposed on those with degrees from regional universities.

Organizers of the event hope that it will slowly chip away at the prevailing attitude in Korean society that universities in Seoul are more prestigious because they are more competitive - an idea that often leaves graduates from regional schools at a disadvantage when it comes to networking and finding gainful employment.

The alumni, most now into their 50s and 60s and living in Seoul, visit Yeungnam University annually on the first Friday and Saturday in April for the gathering. But the homecoming is no simple event. Rather, it’s more of a convention, organized under the theme: “Regional universities over prestigious universities.”

“Start with abandoning the idea that your educational background will bring you down,” said a former minister who attended Homecoming Day on Friday. “A mountain is made to climb over and a river is made to swim across.”

Jeong Hyun-jun, a 28-year-old student majoring in business administration, acknowledged that finding a good job had been difficult for him and his peers.

“It’s hard to pass resume screenings at major companies simply because we are from a regional university,” he said.

Lee Dong-gun, the senior vice director of Woori Bank, offered some friendly advice.

“Educational background doesn’t matter in employment if you target exactly what the company requires,” he noted.

About one billion won ($945,000) of scholarship money has been raised at the homecoming over the past four years, giving a boost to about 40 students.

In many ways, it is also a chance to network, with alumni offering tips for finding employment. Out of the approximately 2,000 graduates who have landed jobs in the top 100 leading companies in Korea, many were supported by a mentor, who in some instances offered them an internship to start their career or recruited a corporation employee to help prepare them for an interview.

“I met my mentor on Homecoming Day in 2011,” said Ye Jun-seong, an employee of Samsung C&T Corporation. “After preparing for employment and emailing him over a year, I became a ‘Samsung man.’?”

Yoon Sang-hyeon, a representative of Ilsin Industrial who entered Yeungnam University in 1969, first came up with the idea for Homecoming Day after he bumped into business students who had experienced prejudice based on their educational background.

After that, he contacted fellow alumni who might be able to help and rally support.

“Choi Kwang-sik, the former CEO of City Airport, Logis and Travel, Korea, joined first,” Yoon said. “After it went viral, about 100 graduates decided to join the group.”

The first Homecoming Day was hosted on April 2011 by an alumnus who majored in finance. “Many students from regional universities are at a disadvantage,” he said. “It’s graduates’ duty to support them.”

BY KIM YOUN-HO, JO SOO-MIN [enational@joongang.co.kr]




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