The Yonsei campus scenery remains the same no matter what day it is – friendly faces chatting together, relaxing on benches or turning red while running late to class.
Foreign students mostly remain with foreign students.
Korean students stay with their Korean friends.
Both groups gather together from time to time, to discuss class matters and missed assignments, but then everyone leaves to their assigned territories.
What is peculiar is that exactly the same image can be seen in UIC main building, Daewo Annex Hall, as well. Yet, UIC is supposed to be different, international. Why are we not really living up to this image?
Underwood International College – a place for international minds. – a slogan featured in the recent UIC advert at Times Square in New York.
However, are we truly international? UIC administrative system divides its students amongst three categories – Koreans, Overseas Koreans, and International Students. Each category has a separate admission process and usually enters at a different times of the year. Those graduating from Korean based high schools start college in the spring semester while International students and Overseas Koreans from high schools abroad come in fall. This semester difference might not seem like much, but it creates a significant barrier amongst the two groups. Unlike in their spring counterparts, fall freshmen rarely get to go on a freshman welcoming MTs or are assigned to homerooms. If they want to take part in these freshman traditions, they have to wait for the events held in the spring semester. However, by then the divide is already deeply rooted in the class and thus the participation is very low amongst international students. UIC boasts to host students from over 40 different countries but seeing those students actively involved in many of the UIC or Yonsei based events is very rare.
To get more insight into the reason why there exists almost a barrier between most Korean students and non-Koreans at UIC I asked various students their opinion on this matter.
Just as I assumed, most of those who graduated from Korean High Schools had friends from similar backgrounds while international students stuck together as well. Every single response also confirmed that there is a divide between the two groups. Nevertheless, the reasons why remain a mystery. Some suggested it was due to the .5 class system, others blamed the low numbers of international students, making them a secluded minority.
I think the foreign students are a minority which will tend to divide them even further. If there were a bit more foreign students, I think it would be a bit easier.UIC Student
When asked what could be done to help improve this situation, everyone proposed more events aimed to help Korean and international students to interact.
There should try to attract more foreign students. And try to create more programs for foreign and Korean students to interact.UIC Student
Korean students seem to forget their previous “international” experiences once they return to UIC.UIC Student
This comment made me really think of how much UIC is still reliant on the typical Korean university experience. Most of the university events are run solely in Korean, the potential gatherings that could help international students get in touch with other students are often poorly advertised or only in Korean. The language problem even impacts English-based UIC classes, where for years and years, students have been complaining about the frequent use of Korean. It seems that all of this inevitably pits the two groups against each other and makes it almost impossible for us to freely interact regardless of our nationalities. Some say it’s the language barrier, but even for internationals – English is often not their first language. We have all decided to study at UIC so it would be nice if everyone could feel a bit more comfortable, a bit more welcome.
In the end, we are all in this together.