On June 21, 2018, international exchange students in Korea University gathered at Inchon Memorial Hall where a farewell party was held to celebrate the end of the spring semester. The party was a melting pot of cultures from around the world. Students from the U.S., Europe, and Asia mingled comfortably with each other and had a great time together.
As the number of incoming exchange/visiting students to Korea University increased in the early 2000s, the Korea University Buddy Assistants (KUBA) program was initiated in 2003. Currently, more than 100 KUBA buddies are helping international students. One buddy is assigned to 4 to 8 students in order to help them adjust to their new environments. The greatest benefit that the program offers the KUBA buddies is that they are exposed to foreign languages and the cultures of other countries.
Meeting the world on campus
Jeongjae Park (Department of Electrical and Microwave Engineering, ’13) once considered studying abroad to develop his English language skills and cosmopolitan instincts, because he was always nervous when speaking English and interacting with people from different cultures. Since becoming a KUBA buddy his worries have dissipated as he has become accustomed to interacting with international students. He has group meetings with exchange students once a week, has lunch or dinner with them at least twice a week, and enjoys outdoor activities with them on Saturdays.
“Spending time together almost every day is no different than living together. I can practice foreign languages on a daily basis and learn about our cultural differences and our respective values. One of my favorite KUBA events is the International Student Festival (ISF), where exchange students showcase their traditional food, clothing, and customs. When you go to ISF, you can meet people from dozens of cultures in one place.”
Overcoming prejudice which grew from negative personal experience
Eunmin Shin (Department of Mathematics, ’14) has had the experience of studying abroad, as she lived in the U.S. for 5 years. When she first went there she had difficulty in adjusting to her new life, because the school she attended had no program like KUBA. Eunmin had to deal with everything on her own, and in the process she says she developed a certain prejudice about the country’s culture.
“When I joined KUBA, I expected that I would meet people like those I had known in the U.S., but my expectation was wrong. People from all over the world, not just the U.S., are studying on KU campus. You are exposed to a wide variety of cultures, including European, Asian, and South American. The stereotype I had of foreigners was shattered. The most surprising thing was that people from Europe, who have various mother tongues, have no problem in communicating with each other. That may be because the linguistic and cultural barriers within Europe are lower than those between their countries and Korea. I’m grateful that I can experience this wider world without ever leaving the campus.”
Eunmin said the KUBA program has provided her with an opportunity to realize that each country has its unique characteristics, but that individuals from the same country have different faces, values, and styles. She has learned that you can’t stereotype people based on race or nationality.
Student exchange programs offer another reason why you should apply to Korea University
We met two exchange students from the U.S. for an interview: Amaie Gebregzabheir from Colorado and Chase Johnson from LA. They both joined the KU Student Exchange Program to experience different cultures, rather than to improve their foreign language skills or build their resumes. Korea University’s student exchange program is well-known among students around the world who are interested in studying abroad, because it is one of the most highly regarded in Asia, according to Amaie and Chase.
“Before joining this program, I’d heard good things about it from friends of mine who had experienced it. KUBA buddies help you feel as if you’re part of the campus community rather than a visitor or outsider, and they’ve become my lifelong friends. KU students who had at first seemed awkward when talking to exchange students now say they’re not afraid of studying abroad because they have friends all over the world.”
The Student Exchange Program offers growth opportunities to not only exchange students but also local students on KU campus. Korea University is committed to educating tomorrow’s global leaders, so KU campus is becoming a microcosm of the world.
Student Festival (ISF), a cultural exchange festival hosted by KUBA