New foreign professors fall for Ewha's irresistable charms
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New foreign professors fall for Ewha's irresistable charms
  • 한정수 기자
  • 승인 2007.06.01 00:00
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▲ Xiang Bai Chen praises the respectful attitude of the Ewha students, Patty Wouters proudly displays her work on student name cards, Vladmir Hlasny is like a student with his young look and fresh spirit.

            Beginning this semester, 11 new foreign professors were assigned to teach in various departments at Ewha, including the departments of Physics, Ceramic Arts and Economics. This was a part of Ewha’s Global 2010 project, and a new trial for Ewha, since foreign professors were normally assigned only to the English and foreign language departments in the past. Most Ewha students have been busy getting through exams and papers—and now going through the final exams and longing for the summer vacation. But how have the foreign professors been spending their first three months at Ewha?

Xiang Bai Chen (Physics)

             Professor Xiang Bai Chen (Physics), a young Chinese professor in his late 20s who is more like an Oppa (big brother in Korean) than a strict  professor, shares his story of Ewha and how he has been enjoying his life with the students.

             Since there is only one women’s university inChina, Chen said that he had no idea what Ewha would be like when he applied for a professorship that was announced on the American Physics Society website. So, when Chen first encountered the extreme academic competition at Ewha as the biggest women’s university in Korea, he was more than startled—witnessing a scene that he had not experienced in any other places. But now, Chen compliments Ewha students on their enthusiasm and sincerity, which he says make them really amazing compared to the students of other countries.

“Although I am not at the age of most of the other professors in my department, my past experiences teaching at the University of Idaho and University of California in the United States give me the conviction that students of Ewha are really amazing compared to the students of other countries,” said Chen.

             “Compared to teaching at the United States, it was easy for me to get accustomed to the new life here since the students and I shared the same Eastern culture. For example, in the United States, the students often interacted in a freer way with me, but Ewha students treated me more respectfully. Our values are alike, and way of interaction was so similar. Accordingly, it took me little time to get used to the new environment,” said Chen.

             Chen is now teaching the General Physics 1 and General Physics Laboratory 1 at Ewha. He bursts into laughter when he was reminiscing about his first class. “It was the General Physics 1 class and I went in overloaded with worries that the Korean students in their freshmen years would never be able to understand what I said in English. So in order to check their English speaking capabilities, I asked everyone to do a brief self introduction. To my surprise, everyone did speak English well enough to comprehend the lecture. I was relieved, of course, but had a hard time disguising my abashed face throughout the class since, when I was a freshmen, I didn’t speak English at all,” said Chen.

             Chen spends his spare time hiking the mountain near the campus and walking along the campus since his residence is in the graduate school dormitory.

Patty Wouters (Ceramic Arts)

             There is another foreign professor who fell in love with Ewha in just three months away from her home. It is Professor Patty Wouters (Ceramic Arts), a Belgian professor who fell in love with Korea as much as with the Ewha campus. Her affection for her new life was obviously displayed when she mentioned her ways of spending her leisure time.

             “I spend my free time walking along the campus hills, and Cheonggyecheon stream. The fitness room on campus, when I do conditioning, is also one of my favorite places since I live on campus—in a graduate school dormitory. And of course, Insadong is just like a paradise for me. Galleries and art exhibitions in Insadong present me so much inspiration to learn about Korean artwork and culture. I have also started visiting cultural and historical sights like Gyeongbok palace and Changdeok palace these days,” said Wouters.

             Wouters has been teaching for almost 25 years now since she taught workshops in United States, France and Australia, each for several years. She had established her own ceramics school, called the Atelier Circle back in Belgium. But it was her affection and enthusiasm to learn about Eastern culture and ceramic art that made her come to Ewha after receiving an offer from You Heh-ja, currently a fellow professor in the department of Ceramic Arts, and an acquaintance whom she met 12 years ago in an international ceramics symposium held in Korea.

             Wouters said that decision to come to Ewha, and no other place, was the best choice she has made in her life. “Everyone is so friendly and does their best to make me feel at home. For example, I had my schedule diary booked full for the first several weeks because of the invitations here and there. Also, students of Ewha are very polite and well behaved, unlike other students that I have taught in foreign countries,” said Wouters.

             Wouters added that she is making endless efforts to befriend all her students personally. This is an especially important process in an art class because every student must make a personal interpretation and creative artwork. Wouters believes that it is her responsibility to know the exact personality of her students to help them to express themselves creatively in their art.

              “I guess students were a little uncertain and shy at first, since they spotted a foreign professor coming into a Ceramics class, not an English class. But, with a camera that I brought, I took everyone’s photos individually that day to make them feel more comfortable to approach me and, later on, requested that they write their Korean names beside their pictures. It was an efficient method to overcome their uneasiness and, at the same time, help me to learn their Korean names, which I still have hard time pronouncing,” said Wouters

Holding a Korean Chocolate, Dream Cacao 86%, in her hand—not the world famous Belgian chocolate—Wouters mentioned that students place little presents on her desk, like sweets and drinks, and bring small gifts to her when returning the books she lends them, which is a rare scene in other countries.

Vladmir Hlasny (Economics)

Another foreign professor, from the Czech Republic, talked about a misunderstanding which he had before actually coming to Ewha. Professor Vladmir Hlasny (Economics) said, “I only knew about Ewha as a big women’s university in Korea before applying for my position on the Internet. I tried to search for more information but most of the things were in Korean, so just wondered how a big school with 22,000 women students would work out.”

Hlasny explained later that his curiosity was aroused because he had only heard about the existence of the womans universities in the United States, where he heard they were mostly elitist schools where parents sent their daughters to be protected from the naughty college guys.

However, as it turned out, the university and students at Ewha were nothing like his imagination. “Professors in my department are very friendly and considerate. Students also are so nice and understanding that, despite my initial worries about how to deal with a whole class full only of the women students, I have completely adjusted to my new life,” said Hlasny.

Hlasny seemed like a member of the younger generation himself with jeans and t-shirt on, but he mentioned that students were shy and uneasy about approaching a foreign professor at first. So, he tried to be informal with the students and tell jokes rather than only lecturing on boring economic theories all throughout the class, and he tried unusual things like having a class outdoors.

Another problem Hlasny had with the Korean students at Ewha was with textbook use. “Students wanted to use the Korean version of the Economics textbook because, apparently, not all the students were fluent in English. But I figured that such a measure would be inefficient for their studies—with me lecturing in English in front. So, for now, I have created some alternatives like surprise quizzes to help hard-working students receive fair grades regardless of their English fluency,” said Hlasny.

Hlasny does not seem foreign, but just like any of us in the way he adores the beautiful spring scenes on campus, likes traveling to unique places near Seoul after finding them on the Net, and takes pleasure in spending time in modern cafes in the Hongik University area, which is also where he resides.

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