EDITING : 2024.4.22 월 18:51
The Gachon Herald
From international student to a lectereStory about the Gachonian from China
kweagle  |  g.herald1984@gmail.com
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Updated : 2023.12.11  18:11:22
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 According to statistics from the Korea Education Development Institute, the number of international students in Korea is increasing every year. The Korea Ministry of Education surveyed universities that attract a large number of international students and ranked the top 10 schools. Gachon University is the only university in Gyeonggi-do to make the list, ranking 8th in the country. As of the date of the survey (October 7, 2023), Gachon University had a total of 3,057 international students, accounting for about 11% of its register. As a result, it is not a hard thing to hear foreign languages on campus and see international students and Korean students taking classes together. However, it is rare to see international students and Korean students hang out together.
 In this edition of The Gachonian, we bring you the stories of international students, hoping to bridge the gap between them and Korean students. Yu Hae-Jeong is a Gachonian who graduated from high school in China in 2010 and went to Gachon University to study abroad. Thirteen years later, in August of 2023, she earned her Ph.D. from Gachon University. Since the second semester of 2023, she started to run an accounting principles class at the Gachon Faculty of Business Administration, for international students from China.
1. After the bachelor's degree, you completed a Ph.D. at Gachon University. What made you continue your studies in Korea?
 My professor recommended me to start a Ph.D. program, and I saw seniors returning to China colleges to teach, after earning their Ph.D. in Korea. So, I decided to follow that path as well.
2. What was the most challenging part of your last 10 years of studying abroad and how did you overcome it?
 My sister and I came to Korea without learning Korean because we got an advice that we should go to Korea first and start learning basic pronunciation. At first, we started our lives in Korea by communicating in English, so it was very difficult, and we encountered some difficulties. However, I was interested in Korea, so I tried to get used to the Korean language, and as I got better and better, the difficulties decreased. Other than that, I never had any difficulties with living or food, so I think the hardest time was the language problem.
3. When you were an undergraduate student, you and your sister served as the president of the Chinese Student Association. Many students may not be familiar with the Chinese Student Association, so please tell us about it.
 The Chinese Student Association is a private student organization recognized by the Chinese Embassy that works to help Chinese students in Korea. There are a lot of Chinese students in Korea, and many of them are not familiar with Korean, so they ask the association for help. The Chinese Student Association is active not only at Gachon University but also at other universities that have attracted many Chinese students. The Chinese Student Association organizes events for international students to get together and represents them at other events.
4. What was the most memorable thing that happened in Korea during your study abroad?
 It's gone now, but until 2021, the International Student Festival was held every year in Cheong-Ju. It was the biggest festival where all the international students in Korea got together. There was an event called 'Letter to my Parents' in which international students wrote a letter to their parents in Korean and submitted it, and then two students were selected to invite their parents. In 2016, my sister's letter was selected, and my parents came to Korea. I was very grateful that the government provided everything from sightseeing to free medical checkups during their stay.
5. What would you like to see improved for international students at Gachon University?
 I've been attending Gachon University for 13 years now, and I noticed that student activities and events are increasing every year. However, those events are mostly for undergraduate students, so postgraduate students are not allowed to enjoy them. My sister and I started to study at Gachon University, but many international students came to Gachon University as graduate students for their degrees. Eventually, we're all the same students, but some who have studied abroad from graduate school are not able to experience the culture and enjoy school life. I think school events and benefits for graduate students should be expanded. Through such improvements, Gachon University will gain positive effects in terms of promotion in other countries too.
6. Since you learned Korean at the Gachon Korean Language Training Center and have been studying at Gachon University for a long time, you must have experienced the school system more than anyone else. How would you rate Gachon University's international student support policy?
 I think it still needs to improve. When I was an undergraduate student, it was hard to get the information I needed, and I never had any experience with the school's international student support services. If I had a problem, I had to ask the staff whom I personally knew, and I don't seem to see any difference from when I was a student. When students first arrive in Korea, most of them don't speak Korean and don't know where to go for help. So still, they go to the International Student Association first. Although there are now foreign language assistants in the Office of International affairs, it's not a surprise to see them get lost. Because they can't find the person in charge. Most importantly, many international students don't know that they can get help from the Office of International affairs or the Student Services Center. It would be great if the school could make some announcements for freshmen, and let international students know where to go on a case-by-case.
7. What advice would you give to students preparing to study abroad at Gachon University or start studying abroad?
 The most important thing is to learn Korean hard. Most of the difficulties I have been through while studying abroad were solved by learning Korean. When I was not good at Korean, I always thought that every bad thing happened to me, but now that I am good at Korean, I am living with positive thoughts. I hope they can use Korean contents to have fun. The second thing is to make a lot of Korean friends. To know Korean culture deeply and enjoy studying abroad, you need to make a lot of friends. Last, participate in class actively. Many students come to me and make the excuse that their professors give them low grades because they are international students. But I am sure that there is no such professor in this school. I wish you all the best in your classes.
8. Do you have any words of advice for Korean students who are taking classes with international students?
 In group activities during the class, there are many opportunities for various students to interact with each other. I would like to ask the Korean students to give a little help to their international classmates not to give up the class They are passionate students, so with little help, they could participate actively. Also, it would be nice if someone could explain to them when the professor asks a question in the class. I would like Korean students to know that many international students don't give up and overcome difficulties, because of the kindness of Korean classmates.
9. You have started teaching at Gachon University this semester, please tell us about your plans for the future.
 I'm teaching a Principles of Accounting class now and this is my first class this year. I've improved a lot, but at first, I was very nervous and worried about how to lead the class. As you work through the lesson, I realized that I love teaching and seeing the students working hard. I felt like the work was a good fit for me. When I first chose this path, I wasn't sure if it was for me, but now I'm sure of it. So, for now, I'd like to continue teaching at Gachon University and later move to China University.
 13 years ago, a Chinese student came to Korea to study. Now she teaches international students at Gachon University. Her story of achieving her goals through persistent effort is an inspiration to all Gachon students. However, the story of the difficulties she faced as an international student leaves a challenge to students who only see each other as foreigners. It can be difficult for international students and Korean students to get along because of language differences. But, what if we took that distance for an obvious thing and didn't even try to get to know each other? The fact that we are students of Gachon University, is enough to bring us closer. I hope that we will be the first to say hello to each other when the opportunity comes.
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