“Come to HUFS, Meet the World” If you are a HUFSan, you must have heard of this slogan at least once. As such, the representative image of HUFS reminds us of harmonious coexistence with international students, along with HUFS̓ currently teaching 45 characterful languages. However, if you look at most important notices in HUFS, they are mostly written in Korean. So, where can international students find out about major notices? For international students who are in such a difficult situation, the Global Students Association (GSA) helps them adapt to HUFS. Students often overlook their efforts, so we met with Dean, the president of GSA, to find out about GSA̓s activities to alleviate the inconvenience of foreign students.
Can you briefly introduce GSA?
GSA stands for Global Students Association, it was founded at the end of 2016 by a group of international students here in HUFS. We are a student council working with the Office of International Admissions and Management (OIAM) to help international students. We organize many events throughout the semester and help international students in academic and administrative works as well.
What was the purpose of GSA's establishment? Can you also explain how GSA is organized?
The GSA was founded by a group of international students supported by OIAM. The purpose is to serve international students here in HUFS and focusing on regular international students. We are having a general meeting once a week and a separate team meeting once a week as well. Currently, we have 4 teams: Organizing team, Finance Team, Design Team, and Translation team. The Organizing Team is responsible for coming up with ideas for events and organizing it. The Finance Team is accountable for our GSA budget and the budget we get from the OIAM. All the event we prepare have to pass our Finance Team because we have to use our limited budget effectively across the semester. The Design Team is in charge of GSA̓s social media accounts such as Instagram, Facebook, Email and Kakao yellow. Through this team we communicate with international students and we deliver our message to them. The Translation Team is responsible for all the documents and important notices we translate from Korean to English or Chinese. All four teams have very specific jobs. In this way, we can work efficiently since we had divided our work like this.
How did you join the GSA?
When I first enrolled at HUFS, I met some GSA members and had the chance to talk to them at the orientation. I knew from that moment I wanted to join GSA. It seemed fun working with a group of people with such diverse backgrounds and the ideal of helping international students. So I applied for the next semester when I saw the recruitment poster immediately.
Could you please elaborate on GSA’s activities? What distinguishes it from other department's student council?
The reason we organize activities is to create something for international students. We wanted to provide a place for them to socialize, meet new friends, and therefore to adjust the campus life better. Every semester we start with orientation and then MT trip, welcome party, cultural experience trip, and so on. It varies every semester. We always tried to come out with something better events to organize. But activities are just a small part of what we do in GSA.
Our university usually post important information only in Korean, so many international students miss those notices. Therefore, we have a translation team in the GSA that translates the notices from Korean to English and then sends them to international students by Email or sometimes posts them on our social media accounts. Like I said earlier, we also have a new Finance Team this semester that is in charge of our banking account and aims to get outside sponsorship. This semester a Korean musical store sponsored us with some guitars, all of which were given to our international students as prizes at our GSA events. We also managed to get more scholarships for international students this time by working with other organizations and offices.
What was the most difficult part of the work in GSA?
We have four different teams in GSA with 17 members this semester. Each team had their own difficulty, I think. When working together, conflicts of opinion are hard to deal with, But we do that to encourage our members to speak out and challenge each other. While it is difficult, it is also what makes GSA great because we listen to a different opinion and try to improve the GSA every semester.
What was the most memorable work in GSA this year, and why?
As the president of GSA, the most memorable work we did this semester was to stand up for international students when a Korean professor discriminated against Chinese and Japanese students in the class. We are fully aware of the historical and political issues between Korea, Japan, and China. But it is unacceptable for a university professor to publicly discriminate against students in the class. After we confirmed this issue, we filed a complaint to the professor and asked that he should apologize to the students in the class. I personally also sat down with him and talked about this problem. A week later the professor apologized and decided to resign next semester.
Does the GSA have any plans for preventing racial discrimination in the future?
We will continue to work with each department and OIAM office to report such issues if they occur again. If the university does not respond and start improving on such critical matters, then we are planning on more dramatic measures such as reporting it to the press.
Is there anything you want to say to HUFsans?
Our university has one of the most diverse groups of students in Korea. Of course, it can be challenging for the staff and student councils in each department. We understand the limitations and also we do not expect things will become better overnight. But I think it is up to us. HUFsans will make here better and make the changes around here instead of waiting for it to happen. So, please be kind to one another and make thing better together.
There is an old saying “Rome is not built in a day.” Like this, the harmony between international students and Korean students at HUFS was not built in a day. It was built through the effort of the organizations like the GSA behind the scenes. However, we still have a long way to go to improve this relationship. Only HUFSans can play a leading role in solving conflicts within the university. Just like what Dean said, “Make it better here and make the changes around here, not waiting for it to happen.”
By Yoo Chan-heum
Staff Reporter of Global & National Section