Please introduce yourself.
Hello, my name is Violette Marie Cambon, my friends call me Vio. I am a masters student of University of Geneva and I am in the three-campus program. I spent a semester in Keio University, and I am spending a semester here at Yonsei University and then I am going to Hong Kong where I am going to study for two weeks and then do my internship there.
I come from Valence, southeast of France. Valence is in between Lyon and Marseille, closer to Lyon. So back in France I had to learn English and choose from German, Italian or Spanish, but I wanted to learn a language somewhat unrelated to French so I chose to go to a high school that taught Japanese. I wish I was as good as I should be at Japanese, but I forgot some of it during the year when I joined a volunteer program. I resumed studying Japanese at the university of Geneva.
In total, I have spent a year and half in Japan. As an undergraduate student, I spent a year as an exchange student in Japan four years ago. My major as an undergraduate student was Japanese language within a business context. I studied translations English to French and Japanese to French. As a master’s degrees student, my major is Asian studies and at Keio University, I took some business and law courses.
Now, I am also learning Korean here, taking 2 hours of KLI classes every day. It is intense, but it is the best way to learn a language. Since I am staying here only for a month, I want to learn now, where I have Korean teachers that can correct my mistakes.
Tell us about the 3-Campus Program that you are taking part in.
My major as a master’s student is Asian studies and so the 3-campus program was a perfect match for me. One of my teachers at Geneva told us about the 3-campus program. I think it is mainly directed toward undergraduate students or undergrad students who want to take a year off before going to grad school. But of course, at first I hesitated to think whether is it really wise? I was planning on finishing grad school and getting a job to earn money. Still, studying a year in three different countries, in great universities like Keio, Yonsei and HKU? It was just such a huge opportunity. After all, I was an Asian Studies major and it was made sense to go. I thought that this might be my last time travel and study as an exchange student. I knew how it was from my undergraduate exchange experience in Japan. As far as I know, this year, I am the only graduate student who is in this 3-campus program for a full year because many students choose to go on a half year program. Though it is very intense, I think it is totally worth it.
Which courses are you taking?
I am taking two Korean Language Institute courses, Korean history, Masculinity and Modernity by professor Helen Lee and RDQM by professor Howard Kahm. I initially wanted to take fewer courses but the courses were way too interesting, I thought “I need this in my life”. I knew it would be hard but I think it will be useful.
How is UIC different from other schools?
Firstly, regarding students, at Keio, all my classes were mainly for foreigners. I had one or two Japanese students who had lived abroad for a long time and were also in the three-campus program as me. So other than that, I didn’t get to meet many Japanese students.
So when I discovered that UIC was an all-English college, I thought it would mainly comprise of international students. But it turned out that the foreign students in my classes are the minority. It was my first time experiencing an English faculty, an all-English college with more Korean students than there are foreign students.
At first, I wondered why so many Koreans would choose to study in an all-English college. Why do they choose the harder path? If it was me, I would choose to study in my mother tongue, French.
But when I witnessed the level of students here, I understood that using another language, in this case, English in an academic context opens up a new door of thinking, and you become better at critical thinking.
Secondly, regarding the courses, thanks to the classes here at UIC, I have acquired more methodological tools to conduct research and write a paper in just two months, than what I have learned in the five years of education before coming here.
In my undergraduate program, I mainly did translation and our classes were big, and we were evaluated with multiple choice questions. Having not much prior knowledge in academic writing, I failed my first master’s thesis project about China and the Cultural revolution.
Even in Keio, the courses were not so challenging. I came to Yonsei with this idea that exchange programs were not too demanding. The courses in Keio were very interesting but it wasn’t a huge discovery for me.
And then I came here, and I dropped into many classes during the add and drop period. I was so impressed because the students spoke fluent English, they were outspoken and they articulated their ideas in a critical way.
All these skills are so important but I did not know much about the tools and methods to think and write critically. In my RDQM class, Professor Kahm not only emphasizes critical thinking but actually teaches us ways to read and write critically. I am so happy with what I am learning here.
What do you want to do in the future? In what way do you think your UIC education contributes to your future plans?
Well for now, I have to finish my exams which end on June 19th and then I have to leave for Hong Kong on the 22nd. Then, when I go back [to Geneva], I would have to write my thesis and finish my Masters first.
From my UIC education, I have gained so much regarding my career path.
I was not so sure about what I wanted to do in the future, but now through the experience I acquired, I have developed more interest in studying and becoming an educator.
And as a first step, I could set the topic for my master’s thesis thanks to my UIC education. I was so inspired by so many great professors at Keio and Yonsei that I can see myself doing something like this. The professors are so interesting and they are so good at what they do because they have so much experience.
For my master’s thesis, I think I will investigate the relationship between gender and ecology in Japan. I think I would never have come to this conclusion without the masculinity class of Professor Helen Lee.
How has life been for you in Korea?
I did a bit of traveling in Korea and I like Itaewon, Hongdae and Han river. But it’s really hard traveling around because the classes I am taking at UIC are great but also very challenging. So, my schedule is packed. My mom called me and she said I sounded so tired. I just told her that it’s because there’s so much stuff to do here. I love it here.
Have you taken part in any UIC or Yonsei-wide activities? Clubs, special guest lectures, akaraka, etc.
I haven’t taken part in too many school activities, but I did go to the special guest lecture “Nature in Modern Confucianism: Ecological Motifs in Kang Youwei’s Great Community” by Professor Ban Wang from Stanford University. It also inspired me to come up with the topic for my master’s thesis.
Do you have any last comments you’d like to share with us?
The reason I wanted to do the interview for Scribe is because I think the critiques about UIC are unfair. I think the critiques totally undervalue UIC. It’s way too easy to find negative critiques about UIC online, I find so much bad things about UIC and not much good things.
I found the critiques are mostly about how the English proficiency of professors and students is low and that foreign students will feel isolated. The negative views about UIC are way too generalizing. Because like I mentioned, what I experienced here at UIC is the total opposite actually.
In my class, I know an American student, who has been here for a year and she wants to extend even more. And another French friend of mine, who was supposed to stay here for a semester, is extending to a year. So, it is not true that all students are unhappy about UIC and feel isolated.
I understand there are concerns because sometimes Korea is hard to live for people who don’t speak Korean and yes, foreigners are a minority here. And of course, not everyone feels the same way, but at least they should know that there is lots of things that are really positive about UIC. Thus, I hope the opinions about UIC can become better balanced.