While walking around the campus or studying in the library you may on occasion wonder about us. Well, we are foreign students who are here at Dongguk University as part of the student exchange program. This exchange program is offered by DU in partnership with universities from countries such as China, the Philippines, Japan, Romania, the Czech Republic, Norway and the US.
I am also an exchange student and I want to share with you my, as well as some of the other foreign students, impressions and opinions regarding this university.
What exchange students like most about the University is the campus and the fact that it provides students with everything they need ? these include, good restaurants, banking facilities, a post office, a book store, a fairly large library and several reading rooms open till late at night. Technically, there is no need for students to go off campus; and from what I’ve seen so far, many students spend as much as ten to twelve hours inside the campus. These days there never seems to be enough time. We feel constantly pressured to hurry, and to try and do as much as we can in as little time as possible. Also, we have to learn so much. That is why I personally like the fact that DU offers all the necessary conditions for studying.
In addition to the facilities provided by the University, Xiao Min, one of the exchange students from China likes the fact that DU looks professional: “My university in China is like a big park, but Dongguk feels like a real university”. The fact that there are organized festivals, concerts and other activities is also considered a plus in the eyes of the students. For Jonathan from Norway, such festivities emphasize DU’s “dynamic soul”. Ting Ting, majoring in philosophy, appreciates the Buddhist nature of the university: “the temple is right at the centre of the campus, so we can put what we learn into practice. We can learn about Buddhism and we can converse with Buddhist monks. I think this is very good for people who are interested in Buddhism”. They also like the fact that each department has a common room where students can meet and get to know each other, whether they are in the same year, or not. “Because they spend so much time together, they become like a family” observed Cornelia from Romania. Students also like the fact that there are many clubs for a person to join. However, they have also encountered difficulties when trying to find more information about them.
When I asked them about what they didn’t like about the university, they found the question rather difficult. However, as everything has both its good and bad points, the truism must apply to DU also.
A problem with the Korean language poses the greatest difficulty for those DU exchange students who can’t speak it. First of all, some students complained that sometimes the courses are not taught in English, even though they are supposed to. For this reason, it is difficult to understand the subject and to study for exams. Moreover, it is rather a waste of time to spend ninety minutes without understanding most of what the professor has been saying.
Jonathan from Norway thinks that the university should “become more global”.
Although this happens rarely, some of us have met Korean students who, because of their lack of confidence in their English skills, are reluctant to answer our questions. Fortunately, most of the students are very kind and help us whenever they can.
Other quibbles were about DU’s English web site: it is difficult to access, and e-class and udrims services are only in Korean. This is inconvenient not only for us, but also for our student buddies whom we have to call all too frequently to help us.The issue of the buildings’ names written only in Korean is another problem experienced by most of the international students.
Finally, I asked them what they thought the University should do in order to improve the student exchange program. One of their suggestions was to organize trips where foreign students from both guest houses could go together and then get to know each other better. They would also like to learn more about Korea in an organized environment so that they can talk to Korean students and professors about the Korean culture. We are in Korea, but most of the time we don’t know what’s going on in the city or in the country.
Another suggestion is related to the student buddy system which exchange students receive when they start the semester. Xiao Min argues that “we don’t need a helper who can speak Chinese or English to help us with Korean, but a friend. They should choose a person that wants to be friends with us.”
Last but not least, the students think there should be an improvement in the flow of information between the University and students. We think it is necessary to know from the beginning everything we can and need to do in the university; for example, information about the clubs we can join and on other activities. Cornelia also thinks that when we choose the courses we often don’t know what they are about; for it is only when the classes begin that you start to realize that it might not be what you wanted to study. She suggests that, to avert this problem, an English description of the courses should be provided.
There are many aspects we like about the university, and there are also things we like less. Like everything else in life, there is always room for improvement. However, all in all, we are all happy to be in Korea and to be exchange students at Dongguk University.
Teodora Zafiu ,
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