[KOREA UNIVERSITY]Summer sessions luring more foreign students to Korea
The program with the largest student body is the International Summer Campus at Korea University, a six-week program in which domestic and international students can take English lectures from international faculty members such as Paul Bloom, a psychology professor at Yale University, and Trevor Pinch, a sociology professor at Cornell University. The school pays the professors $10,000 in addition to travel expenses, and provides free accommodation at its new international house.
Kerk Phillips, an economics professor at Brigham Young University in Utah, is teaching at the international program for the second time. He said the program is a win-win situation both for students and professors. He said his lectures at the program are “pretty much the same” as the ones he gives at his home university, except that they are far more compressed, covering what he normally teaches over a semester in only six weeks.
The program, which started as a part of the “Global KU (Korea University)” project in 2004 to commemorate the school’s 100th anniversary in 2005, currently offers around 80 courses in such fields as political science, economics, sociology and science, as well as Korean studies. Each class runs for two hours a day, and four days a week. On every Wednesday, students go to a field trips to places such as Insa-dong and the Demilitarized Zone or to companies such as Samsung Electronics, or take special lectures by notable experts in Korea ― this year’s speaker, Chin Dae-je, former Information and Communication Minister, gave a lecture on “Information, Communication and Technology Wonderland, Korea” on July 6. Currently, about 1,200 students from 150 schools in 11 nations are enrolled in the program, which started on June 27.
The student body this year is nearly three times larger than last year’s. The total number of students from abroad ― including foreigners with no Korean heritage, overseas Koreans or those born abroad to Korean parents ― is around 930, while about 250 students from Korean universities are registered in the program. About 20 percent of the students have no Korean heritage.
“I liked the huge selection of classes that the International Summer Campus offers,” said Geoff Kelly, 21, from the University of Pennsylvania. Mr. Kelly said that he studied Korean for two semesters and wanted to work more on the Korean language, adding that the trip to Korea, particularly the Demilitarized Zone, was attractive.
“The program itself in theory is a good idea, but I’m finding that it seems to be a party place for just Korean-Americans to come. Almost everyone I met here is Korean-American,” said Robert Ings, 21, from Toronto University. He said that he knows that some of the students at his college who don’t have any Korean background wanted to come here, but that he was one of the few non-Korean-Americans enrolled in the program. “If [Korea University] really wants to promote itself as being international, they need to do better filtering job,” Mr. Ings added. But he said that the course itself is “really good.” He is studying East Asian studies and economics, but his home college doesn’t offer classes on the Korean economy, which he says he needs.
Not all students come for educational purposes. Kathryn Marie Tully, 22, from Minnesota, is a Korean native who was adopted by an American couple. She said the program is her third visit to Korea, and that this time she wanted to “stay longer than just a vacation” to learn about everyday life in Korea and ultimately to find her birth parents. She was abandoned when she was only a year old, with nothing but a card on which her name was written. “I wanted to experience day-to-day things in Korea and to imagine what my life have been like [if I lived here],” said Ms. Tully.
Students from abroad can take as many as nine credit hours (three classes) in the program and Korean students can take up to six credit hours (two classes). International students pay $2,680 in tuition, while Korean students pay 400,000 won ($420) per course.
‘Different paradigm’ attracts students: dean
Q. What do you think made the program grow so fast?
A. Its educational paradigm is different from that of other summer schools in Korea focused on Korean studies, mostly targeting gyopo (those born abroad to Korean parents). As a part of the Global KU project, we wanted foreign professors good enough for the Ivy League to come and teach at Korea University over the summer. In order to recruit prestigious faculty members, we provide them, I believe, with the best environment, giving them not only a large paycheck but also office space. The quality of our international residence center is also equal to a four-star hotel.
We also don’t focus on only Korean studies, but in core courses in various fields, in order to attract more foreign students who want to graduate earlier as well as those who want to have overseas experience. We raised the number of classes to 80 this year from 12 last year.
In addition, we offer scholarships to qualifying students in order to raise their academic quality. If a student gets an A in all three classes, we grant him or her $1,000 when they finish the program.
Even though you’re saying the program aims to attract more foreign students, foreigners without any Korean heritage make up only 20 percent of the total student body. It doesn’t seem very international, does it?
I agree that the number of “pure” foreigners is very low. We’re trying to attract more foreigners to Korea who might otherwise go to Hong Kong or Singapore during the summer. But that takes time, and the program’s first goal is to expand its body to 2,000 students and 100 professors by 2008. After achieving the target, we will focus on diversifying the students’ nationalities.
However, it doesn’t mean that we’re only focusing on foreign students who have no Korean background. I think we should also embrace Korean students studying abroad, who are in some way considered “deserted children.” The number of such students is growing and we should do something for them, because they are the ones who will come back to Korea later. At the campus, they can expand their human networks in Korea. We also grant students who attend the campus for two consecutive years membership of the alumni association at Korea University, which is beneficial in Korean society. About 10 students will receive membership this year.
In addition, letting regular students at Korea University sit in on a prestigious professor’s lecture is also a way of being international.
I heard that you provide internships for the program’s students. Tell me more about the internship program.
Before the program starts, we offer selected participants a four-week internship program at Korean organizations and companies. This year, 40 out of 150 applicants got the chance to work at such places as the National Assembly, SK Telecom, KBS, SBS, MBC and Binggeurae. Students, particularly gyopo, like the internship program because the working experience in Korea looks good on their resumes.
What are your future plans?
We want the program to be a model for a university network, where students and professors from around the world can gather every summer and hold conferences. If we do that before Hong Kong or Singapore, it would make Korea, and Korea University, the educational hub of Asia.
by Park Sung-ha