|▲ Shreya and her group members are exchanging their language.|
/Photograph by Im Chae-hyun
Every semester, Dongguk University welcomes a great number of international students from all over the world. According to “Higher Education in KOREA,” a website which provides the information of all universities in Korea, the total number of international students has increased by approximately 250 every year. As the proportion of international students grows larger, Dongguk University has arranged special programs that help the students adapt to campus life in Korea.
Among them, the “Language Exchange Program” is where both Korean students and international students can exchange each other’s languages and cultures. During the last semester, 30 international students and 46 Korean students participated in this program. One international student has to form a group with one to three Korean students and meet up once or twice a week. The program focuses on the students’ autonomy so the participants can decide whatever they want to study, whenever and wherever they want to meet.
The Post interviewed one international student and one Korean student who are in the same group to hear about their experiences engaging in this program.
|▲ Shreya is an international student enrolling in the Language Exchange Program.|
/Photograph by Im Chae-hyun
Q. Pleased to meet you. Could you briefly introduce yourself?
Shreya Bhawna Toppo: Hello, I am Shreya Bhawna Toppo from India and I am majoring in Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics. I am in my junior year as an undergraduate student.
Moon Chan-woong: Nice to meet you. My name is Moon Chan-woong. I am a sophomore majoring in Statistics.
Q. How did you get to know about this program and why did you decide to take part in it?
Shreya: Before I came to Korea, my senior told me about this program and it sounded really interesting. Then, I received an email from the International Office about this program. It was something new to experience. I really like meeting new people and making friends. That is why I participated.
Moon: When I was a high school student, I thought university students would easily make foreign friends since there would be plenty of opportunities to meet foreigners on campus. However, in reality, I had very few chances to interact with international students. So, at the time I came across the notice about the Language Exchange Program on our school’s website, I happily joined in.
Q. I heard the program is very easygoing and that students can study in their own ways. How was your group’s study style like?
Shreya: I had two girls and Chan-woong in my group. All four of us did not wanted to have a teacher-student relationship but have a friend-friend relationship. So, instead of sitting in the class studying, we decided to go out and have coffee or dinner together, which was obviously more enthusiastic. To be specific, on Tuesdays, we had dinner and had a conversation for about three hours. On Wednesdays, we met at a café near school. We talked about random topics such as college life, movies, and books. Basically that was our study style. We always kept it really flexible and friendly.
Q. What was the most unforgettable moment of this program?
Shreya: Well, every meeting with them was unforgettable. But, to pick one, the most interesting moment was when Chan-woong and one of the girls had a debate on the history of Korea. It was very intense and I was amazed by their completely different point of views on the same historical issue.
Moon: Yes, that debate truly heated up our dinner table. However, in my case, the most unforgettable moment was our last meet up. Shreya gave us a sweet, handwritten letter with a gift. The two girls and I did not expect such a thing. We really thank Shreya and feel very lucky to meet her.
Q. What is the most precious gift you received while taking part in this program?
Shreya: I think the most precious gift I received is the friendship with my group mates and the knowledge that we shared. Since we learned and taught each other, I was able to acquire Korean language. This program helped me practice Korean that I learned in class and now I can understand some of the words.
Moon: Before I participated in this program, I hesitated meeting with exchange students. I thought I had to be flawless to talk to a native speaker. After experiencing this program, I realized that there is no need to be perfect in speaking a language to build relationship. Thanks to this program, I have gained confidence in speaking English, which made me treat foreigners comfortably.
Q. Did you experience any personal difficulties while participating in this program?
Shreya: The program is excellent as it is, but there are always some points for improvement. Thankfully, I personally did not have any difficulties. However, one of my friends, who was an exchange student, took part in this program and she was disappointed because she would rarely meet her group and the people in the group did not reply to her messages. This was a huge drawback. I honestly do not know how this problem can be solved. Still, if there is a slight imposition for not completing the program, I guess, there will be an improvement.
Q. The Language Exchange Program will continue this semester. Would you like to give any advice to the newly participating students?
Shreya: I would like to advise that this is one of the many opportunities you will get to enhance your knowledge and see it as out of the box learning. So, for your own good, be flexible, cooperative, confident, and open to new ideas and cherish every minute you spend on this program.
Moon: The chances to become a friend with an international student are not that plenty as you imagine. On that point, this program helps you make foreign friends by spending time together. Unless you attend the meet up poorly, I promise you it will be the most refreshing and meaningful experience while in college.
Im Chae-hyun firstname.lastname@example.org
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