The Semester as Experienced by Foreign Exchange Students
How was the semester for the foreign exchange students?
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At the start of the semester, many exchange students arrived in Korea from all over the world, anticipating the opportunity to experience Korean culture and meet new friends at their new school. However, their anticipation turned to apprehension as the semester started in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
New to online lectures
Most exchange student shared similar discomforts regarding the lectures throughout the semester. Cho Hana (Department of Education, 3rd year), an exchange student from Ithaca College in the United States, said she had a hard time with cyber lectures. She appreciated that lectures were available at convenient times and allowed multiple replays, but she could not help feeling disconnected from peers and professors and was thus less motivated.
Another exchange student, Lee Chieh (Department of Economics and Finance, 4th year) from National Taiwan University, agreed, saying that it was hard to interact with the instructors. On top of that, due to the restricted setting, professors gave out more assignments than in previous semesters. “There were some advantages though. The schedule was very flexible, so I could, for instance, watch my lectures at night if I was busy during the day or postpone them if I had too many assignments,” explained Lee.
The studying environment was another source of difficulties for the students. “I had never been to the campus, so I did not know where I could study,” said Cho. Instead, she chose to study mainly in her dormitory. There were minor issues, since she has a roommate and they were on different schedules. Lee said she usually studied in the library, knowing herself to be unproductive at home. “However, the available seats in the library were limited for the sake of social distancing, and it was hard to find a seat from time to time.”
Missing out on school activities
During the pandemic, what Lee missed the most were club activities like the ones she participated in during the previous semesters. “Because of the coronavirus, club members were not able to meet in person, so we were not able to get close and build friendships,” said Lee. She also could not meet her friends often since most Korean students stayed in their hometowns. Cho said she also wishes she had the chance to participate in clubs and activities inside of school. Still, her biggest regret is that she was not able to experience a Korean university festival. “The festival alone would have been enough to make my entire semester better, but unfortunately, it didn’t happen,” said Cho.
When questioned about the student protests that recently took place, Cho seemed surprised. “I stayed mostly in the dormitory and was unaware of such events,” said Cho. On the other hand, Lee said she had heard about the protests. “I understand their concerns. Especially, as an exchange student, I can see why it would have been a huge inconvenience for the students who live far away and did not rent a place nearby to come to campus for offline final exams.”
Back to school?
Although Cho initially planned to stay at Hanyang for just one semester, she decided to extend her stay in Korea for another semester. Her plan is to look for internships and part-time jobs. “Once the pandemic is over, I would love to take some offline classes and meet my peers and professors,” said Cho. “I also look forward to exploring the campus and experiencing what it is like to be a normal student at Hanyang University.”
For Lee, she graduated this June and this semester was her last one at Hanyang. “Unfortunately, coronavirus ruined most of my plans. Nonetheless, I experienced many things last semester and met many new friends this year, so I’m satisfied with my exchange student experience at Hanyang University,” said Lee.
Hwang Hee-won email@example.com
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