[CAMPUS COMMENTARY] Foreign students not integrated enough

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[CAMPUS COMMENTARY] Foreign students not integrated enough

This happened at the end of September. With the Chuseok holiday coming up, there was a potluck party held for the international students at my school. They wore their traditional costumes, and then shared their traditional foods with each other. They made songpyeon, a half-moon-shaped rice cake, with the school’s student government president who was asked to come to the party. It was a time for them to learn about Korean culture as well.
Outside of parties like this, it’s easy to meet international students strolling through campuses or in the classrooms. According to data from the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development, the number of international students in Korea has increased to 32,557 from only 11,464 in 2001. That’s a three-fold increase.
Most of them are exchange students from universities abroad. The sudden increase in the number of international students on campuses is in line with each university’s international strategy.
As we enter a globalized era, many students want to study in a foreign environment, so they go abroad. According to a report by the Education Ministry, the amount of dollars Koreans spend abroad is huge compared to the amount international students spend in Korea. Korean students spent 930 million dollars abroad in 2000; that jumped to 3.3 billion dollars in 2005.
Universities are exerting efforts to attract more foreign students, and are succeeding. The exchange student program is one of their strategies to help their own [domestic] students get a more cosmopolitan outlook and learn foreign languages.
But do these school programs serve their purposes and provide real opportunities for domestic students and foreign students to have meaningful interaction?
Universities provide space on their campuses, such as in international lounges, where students of different nationalities can meet freely. However, these are used mostly by foreign students; domestic students mostly stay away.
In the classroom foreign students are usually ignored by domestic students. Most domestic students are unwilling to work on projects in the same group with foreign students; at times, they would complete a project without the foreign students.
Some students consider international students as strangers, not friends.
This suggests that the schools’ international programs are not firmly established. Why is that so?
One reason is a failing by the universities. Some events, such as the potluck party our school held for international and domestic students, are good examples of universities’ efforts. But it was a pity that not many knew about the event.
The school needs to promote events like this more, so more students can participate and become more involved in activities with international students. Students also need to learn more tolerance so they don’t hurt the feelings of international students.
They should learn that these international encounters are opportunities to gain a global outlook and language skills ― they should not lose this chance while in school.

*The writer is a reporter for The Kwangwoon Annals, the English newspaper of Kwangwoon University.

by Han Yu-na
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