HUFS is known for its international background throughout Korea. For instance, the university has always topped Quacarelli Symmonds (QS) evaluations in Asia. However, according to multiple international students interviewees, its system does not fit its reputation. At the beginning of this semester, tuition for international students increased, without any multilateral debates, by 400,000 Korean won (US$ 348.49). The Argus listened to international students and their complaints in order to make HUFS better for everyone.
Problems that international students face
Unclear notification coverage and delivery
There is a huge information gap when it comes to accessibility, since the amount of information given in Korean is much more than the amount given in English.
A student also added, “In fact, the official notice of the increase was released after the payment period, which angered many international students.”
There have been improvements on essential notifications; they are now sent in English to Foreign Students in OISS.
However, Simon Soltes, vice president of GSA said, “There are still many parts of crucial information still given in Korean only, like webpages of College of Business, International Economics and Law to name a few. I have seen some cases in which a few international students did not receive the notifications.”
E-class also provides an English platform, but crucial notifications are still given in Korean only.
Daily inconveniences due to miscommunication
The majority of foreign students have experienced troubles with school administration offices due to poor communication in English, according to multiple interviewees. Most international students who were interviewed expressed their discontent with the GlobeeDorm administration office, saying the office did not have any personnel fluent in English or other languages.
“Managers in the GlobeeDorm office and even security guards cannot speak English at all, when they actually have the most contact with foreign students.” said Simon.
Further, a few interviewees also said that they felt offended when they were stopped by guards and had to comply their orders without enough explanation.
Since they came from different backgrounds international students are not quite familiar with HUFS regulations as much as regular Korean students. Hence, enough explanation is necessary to avoid emotional offense.
“I was notified all of a sudden that my penalty points are too high to stay in my dorm; however, I was never told the reasons. I asked the guards why my points had piled up so high while I did not notice, but the guards could not explain things in English at all,” an interviewee said on condition of anonymity.
Jonathan also stressed international students’ troubles with the office’s insufficient explanations. According to him, there were many international students who wanted to extend their term of stay last semester, as did he. So, he went to the GlobeeDorm office. Jonathan stated, “I got into so much trouble communicating with them in English. Even the notification I finally got from them was wrong, so a number of students who wanted to stay had to be kicked out because of the wrong due date that they gave us. I really think this must be fixed.”
Not enough opportunities to ‘blend-in’
There were not enough chances to blend into Korean classes and student societies, according to most of interviewees. According to both of representatives of GSA, a lot of international students including students in the Center for Korean Language and Culture wish they could have a greater connection to Korean classes and students.
“I have heard a lot from foreign students that there should be more regular classes provided in English so that they can take classes with regular Korean students. HUFS is a language-specialized school, but I felt classes were so separated from Korean students,” said Mariam Kim, an international student studying Industrial Management Engineering at Global Campus. “I think the platform for interaction between foreign and Korean students is quite limited, so I wish there could be additional integrative programs or such,” she added.
Causes of the problems
Korean comprehension skills not guaranteed with TOPIK
Requiring TOPIK for undergraduates is as good as expecting them to have enough understanding skills for Korean language, especially when it comes to classes. However, since the test score is not required for every foreign student, the school still shares responsibility to make sure announcements are given in English as well.
Regrettably, there was no single line saying “notifications should also be provided in English,” in HUFS regulations, including Foreign Students and Trainees Management Regulations.
Article 2 of Chapter 2 of the regulation specifically states that CKLC and OISS are responsible for management services, saying “Both of the institutions should provide support for enrollment, daily life, safety, counseling, and academic affairs.” Thus, these two offices take charge of informing foreign students.
However, The Argus did not find any regulations which stated, “All public announcements should also be given in English.” from any other related regulations uploaded on the HUFS website.
The school’s expectation for foreigners without TOPIK to understand Korean
HUFS’ requirements for its foreign students does not cover Korean language fluency.
Further, Exchange Students and Korean Language Trainees are not required to submit Korean language fluency test results, and even some of the regular full-degree undergraduates are not required to either.
According to the International Affairs Team, if a major course provides classes in English in more than half of the total amount of all of the lectures, the major course is referred to as ‘English Track’.
According to the HUFS General Guide for International Undergraduate Admission Academic Year Spring and Fall 2018, foreign national applicants for a regular full-degree are partially required to submit TOPIK results, level 3 at minimum. However, the guideline says that it is also possible for those who do not submit the TOPIK or who fail to meet requirements. “Those who have not submitted an official language proficiency score or do not meet the minimum requirements (TOPIK level 3 or TOEFL 80) can and have to take a language interview instead.”
Thus, basically foreign students with a TOPIK level score would not have difficulty understanding Korean classes but the language barrier between foreign students without TOPIK and school administrators is inevitable, since the regulation does not mandate basic Korean language skills for every foreign national.
Insufficient diversity of cultural exchange programs
A number of interviewees expressed their concerns that the diversity of cultural exchange platforms is minimal. “Programs from the International Student Organization (ISO) are quite good, but I also wish there could be more programs that are open to those who could not volunteer during the given period,” said Mariam.
Currently, HUFS has several programs for foreign students and Koreans to get together: ISO and KR Buddy, a HUFS club for tourism in Korea - provides services like excursions, trips and cultural exchange. “I think nothing much else is available other than ISO. The organization takes great and professional care for exchange students thankfully, but I wish there could be more diversified programs like opening HUFS’ clubs for foreign students,” she added.
Paths to improvement
Mandate notifications to be given in English
HUFS should mandate every notification regarding foreign students to be given in other languages.
Both GSA representatives stressed the importance of English guidelines for foreign students, especially International ones.
“Requirements for graduation and the credit system for International Students were provided in Korean only. I had a hard time understanding how to schedule myself in academics. Most of the International Students like me had to suffer from the same issue,” said Simon. “Thus, absolutely, we do think HUFS should amend its regulations to make sure more information is available in other languages.” Jonathan added.
Without proper notifications given in other languages, it is so obvious that International Students who take up a large part of HUFS total members cannot continue their academic years smoothly. Since foreign students absolutely are customers of education, it goes without saying that notices must be provided in English in a correct, timely manner as much as Korean ones are.
Allocation of English-fluent employees
HUFS should allocate personnel who can speak English fluently in every foreigner-related office, for the improvement of communication between offices and foreign students.
“I can hardly understand why there are no managers who are fluent in English in offices, while HUFS presents itself as the best language school in South Korea,” said Simon.
He also added “It is not that we want every official to be fluent in English or other languages. I want to emphasize that there have been actual cases in which International Students could not continue his/her academic curricula because of miscommunications with school officials. This is not a thing that is supposed to happen in ‘The best language school in Korea’.”
Hence, HUFS must allocate multilingual employee in offices where they are closely-knit with foreign students, for the mutual betterment of foreigners and HUFS itself.
Integration programs for HUFSans regardless of nationality
In many universities in England and other Commonwealth countries, where all races and a wider variety of nationals come together, there is an exemplary system called ‘a Foundation Course’.
Foreign students in the Foundation Course are required to take a vast array of linguistic and cultural training to help with their adaptation and blend-in. The course offers intensive/extensive knowledge about differences from their homelands, and skill developments for practical speaking and presentation. The biggest difference between the Foundation Course and HUFS’ current regulation is that of mandating foreign students to take pre-bachelor’s degree preparations, so that foreign national students will not have trouble blending into local communities.
Professor Lee Seung-yeon of Ewha Womans University, stressed the importance of such integration programs, saying “Foreign students, particularly Exchange Students, are quite prone to cultural stress which often leads to nervousness and alcoholism, for they are repetitively exposed to unfamiliar situations on a daily basis.” in a seminar held in Jeju island, 2015.
HUFS should adopt and benchmark the course to provide a vast range of support, so that the platform of cultural/language exchange is not limited to volunteers and diversification.
The Argus has always been keeping its eyes on foreign students, issuing an article about them every year. However, The Argus always finds old and new problems every time it takes a look at them. Both GSA presidents stressed their chronic inconveniences, demanding enough attention and action from school officials, in their interview. It is time that their problems be solved, for foreign students are becoming dubious of HUFS’ advertising slogan, “No.1 globalized campus in Korea.”
Reporter of Campus Section