Group Projects in Korea?
The types of group members
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Team projects in Korea, widely known as "teample (팀플)" in Korean, are notorious for the many types of people you’ll encounter. Let’s take a look at the different types of people in a team project here in Korea, as commonly depicted on SNS for humor purposes, and from the experiences of foreign students’ attending Hanyang University in order to gain a deeper insight into what team projects are like for those from different cultures and backgrounds.
Some of the different possible types of people in a team project include the Googler type, a person in charge of doing the data research but does the minimal amount of work and easily gets it done on Google. The Always Dissatisfied type who complains about everything that the other team members are up to, without suggesting a solid solution. The so-called, Gold Hands type who excels at creating valuable presentation materials and are usually exceptional at using computer programs. The Loudmouth type is great at speaking, but whether they are great workers, remains unknown until the work is done. Then, of course, there is the Doesn’t Read Text type who avoids reading text messages related to the group project. In Korea, there are also those Seniors Preparing for Employment type, an individual who does not take the team project seriously and is too busy getting ready for their employment at a company.
Nurul Fatini Binti Mokhtar (Department of Mechanical Engineering, 1st year) shared her team project experience in a course called Introduction to Engineering Design. She and her Malaysian friend were teamed up with three other Korean students, and they were required to build a drone as a team. “A team project requires smooth communication, and being on a team with a foreigner means that communication will be a barrier to overcome,” she said. “I felt a sense of rejection due to the language barrier, which held me back from reaching out to people.”
Fortunately, Mokhtar had welcoming group members. The leader of the group was the “loudmouth type” who made everyone feel comfortable and led the group in getting things done with his communication skills. She also met the Googler type who used google to ease the communication barrier within the team. For her, the team project in Korea was a novel experience. She appreciated that she had a chance to communicate with Koreans and get to know them better, but felt that the limitations of group projects lie in the difficulty between discerning the line between genuine interest in being friends or just mere group teammates, she said. “I wish team projects could hold more depth in the creation of a bond between members.”
Arauca Lozito (Department of Media and Communication, 4th year) described team projects in Korea as, agonizing. She has been attending Hanyang University for almost four years. Lozito pointed out that the language barrier was an impediment in expressing her own ideas in front of Korean students. Besides the difficulty in smoothly delivering one’s ideas, the different perspectives that come from varying cultural backgrounds contributed to misunderstandings and differences in ideas. She criticized the process in that, usually, the group leaders have an awful amount of burden, as they implicitly hold the role of assigning individual roles and taking charge of everyone in the group. Claudia Sarai Moreno Flores (Department of Electronic Engineering, 4th year) agreed, and shared her impression of team projects in Korea being run by one or just a few people doing most of the work. She said she has seen the Loudmouth type who speaks more than working, the Gold Hands type who is excellent at creating elaborate PPTs, and the "I came here to play” type, who lived by the “all play, no work” principle in her laboratory classes regarding circuit theory, logical design, and chemistry.
Julia Bärlund (Business Administration, 4th year) commented on the different types of people during group projects. Being a business major, she seems to always notice the one who has done a similar project before and takes the lead, the one who does a ton of research by just copying and pasting to a word file, and the free riders. By half a chance, she usually encounters a member who is preparing for employment and can be seen only two times during the semester, but that they usually still know what they are doing! She described the Korean team projects as strategic and logical, being all about getting things done. "Koreans are effective and dynamic -- which I love."
Team projects are what university students must go through regardless of where they are, but the group projects that foreign students at Hanyang University seem to point out some distinct difficulties that they have faced as well as the characteristics of the Korean “team project culture.” Most notably, for foreign students who are not used to Korean culture, the responsibility remains on the Korean students to ease the language barrier and derive cooperation from all members. As Lozito said, “we all think differently, but that doesn't mean you're wrong.” Although team projects are difficult, in that, people with colorful, distinctive ideas must come together to achieve one objective, it gives us a great lesson in cooperation along the way.
Kim Hyun-soo -- firstname.lastname@example.org
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