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Yonsei’s new college exclusively in English

June 09,2006

Students of the Underwood International College talking on the campus of Yonsei University. Provided by the Underwood International College

Yonsei University opened its doors to the world a little wider this spring by opening its Underwood International College, or UIC, a liberal arts college with courses taught exclusively in English.
Setting “inbound globalization” as its goal, the school aims to attract both Korean students who are dreaming of studying abroad and foreign students.
With ever more Korean students heading overseas to study ― and ever more Korean high schools offering special classes for such students ― Yonsei hopes to retain these young minds, while also attracting foreign students to Korea.
Currently, 86 students are enrolled in the college, of whom 58 graduated from domestic schools and 28 completed their entire primary and secondary education overseas. The 28 include seven international students from China, Australia, Pakistan and the United States.
An amalgam of curricula from Harvard and several other prestigious American universities, the college’s curriculum is totally different from those elsewhere in Yonsei.
John Frankl, a professor of Korean literature at the college and a former head teaching fellow at Harvard University, said that there’s not much difference between the two schools’ curricula. He said UIC’s curriculum is “based on the ideas of what you should learn before going to your major,” instead of teaching specialized subjects in the first or second years.
Students can choose from five majors ― International Studies, Economics, Comparative Literature and Culture, Political Science and International Relations or Life Science and Technology.
Including Mr. Frankl, five full-time international faculty members have already been hired by UIC. The other four will take up their posts this fall.
The school plans to appoint a further seven international instructors this year.
There are also five “chair professors” ― who will deliver occasional lectures ― including Kurt Wuthrich, a 2002 Nobel Laureate; Donald Johnston, the secretary general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and Naoki Sakai of Cornell University.
Though the foreign student body is, as yet, very small, it includes people who made a very deliberate choice to study at Yonsei.
Mindi Newell, from New South Wales, Australia, said that she was attracted to UIC because it is totally different from her home.

Students and the president of Yonsei University, Jung Chang-young, far right. Provided by the Underwood International College

Fascinated by Asian languages and culture, Ms. Newell was an exchange student in Thailand for a year during high school and visited Korea for three weeks in 2002. For Ms. Newell, that stint in Korea was far too short. Therefore, when her high school teacher recommended the UIC program, she rejected the three colleges in Australia that had offered her a place and decided to come to Korea.
She was in for quite a shock. The workload at the university, she said, was just too much, and should be reduced in order to allow students to focus on their strengths.
She was also taken aback by the rigors of Korea high schools. While Korean students toil for more than 10 hours a day to get into college, she said, students in Australia typically get by on four.
However, she looks forward to learning more about Korea and doesn’t regret her decision to study here at all, Ms. Newell said.
Asma Asat, 19, from Pakistan, is also happy with her choice. “I liked the [UIC] program and the campus of Yonsei.”
She said that having all classes in English was a big attraction for her, as were the opportunities to meet both Korean and foreign students.
Ms. Asat, whose father works at the Embassy of Pakistan in Seoul, said that it is a good opportunity to study in East Asia, which is developing fast, and in Korea, which “has so much to offer to the world right now.”
She said her experience here would help her in the future when she has to deal with Korean companies or businesspeople.


Dean says globalization is already realized on campus

“Inbound globalization is already realized on campus,” Mo Jong-ryn, dean of the Underwood International College, said when asked if the school’s goal is possible to achieve. “Already, foreign students and professors have come to UIC. Just the fact that they want to come here is a beginning of success,” he said in a recent interview with the JoongAng Daily.

Q. Why did you set the goal of the college as “inbound globalization.”?
A. The establishment of the Underwood International College has a historical meaning. The merger of universities has already begun and it’s now a kind of global current. In Korea, universities outside of Seoul and vocational colleges have started closing. The so-called high-end universities, such as Seoul National University, Yonsei University and Korea University, would soon lose their position as elite institutions as most top students are leaving [Korea] for advanced education.
Also, the idea of inbound globalization could be a good means of population policy by attracting foreigners to live in Korea.

What do you think about the criticism that the UIC was established to take top-level students, especially from foreign language high schools?
We’re targeting Korean students who want to major in international studies in Korean universities, who want to study abroad and who have completed primary and secondary education abroad. We also target foreign students, because it’s not enough fostering only Korea’s talented students, as the market is becoming globalized. Both companies and schools want global leaders, who have East Asia-based intellects.
Students from foreign language high schools actually are disadvantaged when entering our school because there are no benefits for them in terms of high school records. (Many universities offer benefits to graduates of foreign language schools.)

What do you think are the elements of a global leader?
One should have an enthusiastic desire to succeed on the global stage as well as passion. English is of course important, but desire and ability are more important.

If you had to choose one, what would be the most important ability that students learn from the UIC before graduation?
We run writing tutorials, and that is a compulsory course for freshmen. We’re aiming for students to be able to write a story at the level of the New York Times after going through copy editing once or twice.


by Park Sung-ha


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