CHOOSING A college major is not a simple choice. Four years and high tuition fees are just some of the opportunity costs of becoming a university student. And if the major of choice is not relevant to one’s dreams, the consequences may be devastating. Yet, the reality is that there is little chance for high school students to learn about different university departments. To remedy such predicaments, the Yonsei Dream Major Conductor (YDMC) has been providing future undergraduates with advice based on first-hand experience. For a deeper insight into this notable student club, The Yonsei Annals met with Kim Yong-gun (Sr., Dept. of Systems Biology), the president of YDMC.
Annals: Could you briefly introduce YDMC?
Kim: YDMC is a student volunteer club where members introduce their majors to high school students to provide insight for those who have not yet set their goals [the majors they want to pursue].
Annals: What kind of programs are there in YDMC?
Kim: YDMC has different programs during regular semesters and for the winter and summer breaks. During the semester, YDMC members deliver presentations on their majors mostly in high schools in Seoul. Members visit their assigned high schools to give two lectures that are an hour each to those interested in the speaker’s major. This grants four hours of volunteer time to the lecturer. During breaks, we help students beyond Seoul. In summer, we collaborate with the Jeju Provincial Office of Education. YDMC conducts major presentations for high school students in Jeju Island with all expenses paid by the Office of Education. In winter, we host our programs on-campus. Since we cannot visit all high schools during the semesters, we invite students from all over the country to our university. All members are required to participate in YDMC programs for two semesters, but those who have completed their obligations can continue to volunteer in future projects.
Annals: How are the major presentations organized?
Kim: During the breaks, we reach out to high schools in Seoul to organize specific dates for our major presentations. Though we do not have an absolute standard in choosing the schools, we prefer those that are not too far from campus so that more volunteers can participate. We also look for schools that can organize their schedules that do not overlap with Yonsei’s exam periods, and we try to exclude those that excessively demand a certain major. We normally work with approximately 20 schools in one semester. Because YDMC members are all students, we tend to host our programs past 6 p.m., which is when most of our members’ classes end.
Annals: What qualities do you look for in new recruits?
Kim: Because we are responsible for providing students with information that might possibly change their careers, we look for members with a profound understanding of their own majors. There are also times when we unexpectedly receive difficult questions from the audience. As it is our responsibility to provide accurate information to the students, it is essential for members to have a good knowledge of their own majors to handle those kinds of inquiries. To test this, we ask our applicants to explain their majors in detail for five minutes in our recruitment interviews. Also, speaking in front of people for 50 minutes straight is not an easy task. That is why we look for those who are skilled in creating contents that can keep the listeners focused and engaged.
Annals: Among the many student volunteer clubs in Yonsei University, what makes YDMC stand out?
Kim: Since YDMC is an organization that introduces different majors, it boasts a huge roster of students from all departments incomparable to that of any other student club in Yonsei. We currently have around 35 to 40 different majors in YDMC. In every recruitment period, we try to balance the ratio of departments to avoid having an oversaturation of a certain major. The variety of members in YDMC makes it seem like an eclectic team of experts. I also think that the diversity in YDMC allows members to establish stronger bonds because it is always interesting to learn about things that are unfamiliar to one another.
Annals: Are there any practical benefits for YDMC members?
Kim: While we do not receive any financial support from Yonsei for our programs, we sometimes do get some help from the schools that invite us. As mentioned earlier, the Jeju Island programs are all funded by the Jeju Office of Education, including food, accommodation and travel fees. Members also earn volunteer time that can be used in Yonsei’s Volunteer Service courses.
Annals: What motivated you to join YDMC?
Kim: Most people who studied in Korea could probably agree that there is a lack of quality career education in Korean high schools. I was always bothered by the fact that I did not receive sufficient information on what I would be studying in my department during my high school years. Because of this, I wanted to help more people like me. It would mean so much if at least one student became interested in my major after listening to what I had prepared. That is why I became a part of YDMC.
Annals: Could you share a memorable moment that happened during the YDMC programs?
Kim: In one of my major presentations, a student approached me to ask whether he should apply to my major if he were to pursue his dreams. For his career of choice, however, he needed to specialize in another subject, so I had to give him the right advice. Had the student not consulted my help, he would have come to my department and studied what he did not have in mind. At times like this, I feel most proud as a member of YDMC.
Annals: What are some difficulties you faced in YDMC?
Kim: Since our target audience are high school students, members should always be careful of what they say. One slip of the tongue can determine a student’s dream and career path, so we should always avoid addressing inquiries that we are unsure of. But because members can always receive unexpected questions, they should always maintain a level of awareness while conducting the programs.
Annals: What are some of YDMC’s goals for the new year?
Kim: Typically, YDMC programs have mostly been focused on high schools in Seoul, especially around Yonsei University in the Seodaemun-gu area. It is a shame that we have only been visiting the same schools every year. For the upcoming semester, we plan to reach out to a wider audience in areas beyond Seoul, even if it means investing 10 to 20 minutes more in traveling time.
Annals: Are there any last words you want to deliver to the readers of the Annals?
Kim: Although we are trying our very best, there are still a lot of high school students who are studying for the sake of entering a university and not for what they want to pursue in the future. Not only do the YDMC programs help those students set specific goals and plan a roadmap to their dreams, but they also allow members to get a better grasp of their own majors. I believe that change comes from even the smallest efforts. To everyone who is interested in mentoring, we invite you to YDMC where we guide future leaders of Korea to their dreams.