THE RATE of international students at Yonsei University is increasing dramatically. They are students who are either here as full time students or as exchange students. They stand out because of their appearance or language, so they are easy to notice on campus and in class. However, due to language barriers and lack of opportunities, it is not easy for some Yonseians to befriend foreign students. Fortunately, Yonsei University provides various methods for students to meet each other. Let’s take a look at the numerous programs at Yonsei that can help build new relationships with the foreign students.
Joining Student clubs with global goals
Students who want to make foreign friends by joining a student club, a good choice would be the International Yonsei Community (IYC). Since their foundation in 1995 the IYC works under the motto “By your side” to promote exchange between the Korean and foreign students. Hosting a variety of events, IYC helps foreign exchange students and students at the Korean Language Institute (KLI) adapt to the Korean university culture. For instance, they provide an “Airport Pickup Service” where several members of the IYC pick up the students who have just arrived in Korea and assist them with the check-in process at the dorms. Moreover, in February, before the start of each semester, IYC hosts a “Welcome party” through which both Korean and international students can meet and get to know each other. All Yonseians and foreign students including those who are not the members of IYC are welcomed to enjoy this party. Another event hosted by IYC is the “International Cooking Festival,” which is held during the Yonsei Daedongjae Festival. Foreign students prepare a representative cuisine of their country and share it with other students. As members of the IYC, both foreign students as well as Yonseians can experience unique foreign cultures by participating in various events. According to Han Su-min (Soph., Dept. of Political science), who is the president of the IYC, “IYC can help you make new foreign friends more easily. However, students should always have a sense of responsibility as the activity with the IYC will be something that foreigners will remember about Korea when they return to their home country.”
Another student club that helps build friendships with international students is the Mentors Club. This club has a “Buddy matching program” in which the club creates groups consisting of 5 Korean students and 20 to 25 foreign students. During the semester, each group freely plans some activities that can help foreign students experience Korean culture. Every semester, almost 600 foreign students apply for this program, proving its popularity. One of the biggest events held by the Mentors Club is the “Halloween party” where students dress up in costumes for an evening of fun and horror. Every year, about 1500 students gather regardless of their nationality to enjoy the party. Students that who are interested in spending time with the foreign students are all welcomed to join this club. Students who are fluent in English are preferred but it is not a requirement to join the club. So, why don’t you take this chance and apply for the Mentors Club?
Crossing the border through the KLI
For students who feel burdened by the time devoted to club activities, the volunteering activity at the KLI can be a more appropriate choice. In order to participate in the volunteer program, students have to register online. Due to its popularity, the competition is tough. Nevertheless, the activity offers various experiences that make the hardships during the registration process worthwhile. Yonseians who registered in this volunteer program are paired up into groups with two to three foreign students of KLI. Since the main goal of the activity is to teach and help foreign students understand Korean culture, the activity is mostly done in Korean, lessening the burden for the volunteers and satisfying many foreign students who may want to improve their Korean. Yuka Hisajima, who was part of this activity stated, “I felt that was a great activity for me as it helped me learn the Korean language that is used in everyday life.”
Korean students can also benefit from the program as they can spend time bonding with the foreign students. The Korean students are given the unique opportunity to freely plan and carry out the activities. Choi Se-heon (Fresh., Dept. of Asian Studies) who took part in the voluntary activity mentioned that he visited Gwanghwamun with the foreign students in order to show them the Korean culture. He also added that both the foreigners and Korean students including himself enjoyed the activity very much and that it was an extraordinary experience.
The Global Lounge, where students learn diverse cultures
Perhaps the easiest and the least time consuming method is visiting the Global Lounge which is located on the second floor of the Student Assembly Hall. This lounge is the most popular facility among the foreign students in Yonsei University. Byun Ho-jae (Fresh., UIC, HASS Div.) stated that “I was fascinated by the facilities made for the foreigners, especially the numerous television channels that broadcasts shows from all over the world, which is quite a good environment to make contacts with numerous foreign students.”
Other than the facilities, the Global Lounge also offers many programs that promote the cultural exchange between Korean and international students. For instance, through the “Home Stay Program,” Korean students can spend a lot of time with the foreign students by offering them a chance of home-stay in their own houses and teaching them about the Korean culture. Moreover, the global lounge hosts an event called the “Global Day” every semester. The Global Lounge organizes several cultural events specialized in one country for several days through which the students can learn and enjoy different cultures of other countries. For instance, in the Denmark day in 2013, representatives of Danish enterprises such Jabra, Royal Copenhagen and the exchange students from Denmark attended in the event in order to introduce Denmark to other Yonseians. Choi A-young (Jr., Dept of Business Management) stated, “I hosted the global day program under the theme of Italy, preparing Italian traditional cuisine and painting the Italian traditional paintings. I got a lot of valuable experiences from this festival, since I could help many Yonseians know more about Italian culture.” As Choi said, the global lounge can offer you a good chance to not only make foreign friends but also learn more about many foreign cultures, so students interested should pay a visit to the global lounge.
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Confucius once said, “Isn't it great when friends visit from afar?” Making a friend from another country is a worthwhile experience that all students should have. Yonsei University offers you various chances to obtain this rewarding friendship. The student clubs of Yonsei, the volunteer works at KLI, and the Global Lounge are just a few places where students can participate to meet foreign students. The path to building a relation with foreigners has been highlighted; what Yonseians have to do now is passionately participate in them.