Language is not the only means of communication at the Ewha Language Center (ELC) where students from various backgrounds and nationalities gather to learn a foreign language such as Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese, German, or French. Students in the ELC have found genuine ways building good relationships with each other, even though they cannot speak the same language.
Currently, there are four student clubs operated by the ELC: the Music club, the Dance club, the Sports club and the Photo club. A unique aspect of these clubs is that they consist only of overseas students who are learning Korean at the ELC.
The clubs at the ELC are usually called by the names of their activities. For instance, the club that takes photography is simply called the photo club. This is because such simple name is much more easily understood by a foreign student who is not accustomed to Korean.
Despite the unsophisticated names, the ELC clubs continue to be very popular among foreign students who wish to find friends with similar interests but of different nationality.
"Language is not necessary in order to participate in club activities,” said Ishizawa Shinji, a Japanese student studying at the ELC. Ishizawa participated in the sports club starting this year and is now the student head of the club. “Students naturally understand each other’s feelings and thoughts through playing sports,” said Ishizawa.
The sports club started at the beginning of this year. Despite its short history, a great number of students signed up to participate.
“I really wanted to make a sports club so I asked the ELC to create a sports club for students like me to take part in and exercise together,” said Ishizawa. When the club was finally established over 40 students signed up although only half of them showed up at the meeting place. “Still, it was a good start,” said Ishizawa.
The ELC puts into great consideration the demands of students studying at the center. At the time of establishing a new club, meetings among the teachers are assembled so as to discuss the importance of initiating the club. The minimum number of students that must be willing to take part in the new club activities is ten. After long discussions, the club is founded and an instructor of the ELC is assigned to the newly-founded club.
Today, the sports club meets almost every week to play bowling, badminton, basketball, or any other type of sports. Signing up to participate and showing up at the meeting place for that week is all the student has to do. “Unless the weather is too hot or it is the final day of the exam week, many students sign up and have a great time together,” said Park Jin-chul, a Korean instructor at the ELC who is in charge of the club.
The music club is another group of students at the ELC who communicate with one another through learning and playing music together. Wang Di, a Chinese student, is the student head of this club.
“Students of the music club get to know each other through learning the different music cultures of each country they come from,” said Wang. “Although the style of music may differ from country to country, we often feel close to each other when we find similar aspects too.”
The music club does various activities ranging from learning music to actually playing and singing together in a group. Jung Young-jin, the sound director in the ELC, helps the members of the students various forms and types of music.
Through club activities, Wang said she also discovered many kinds of Korean music, besides the dance music that she mostly listened to when she was in China. “I got to listen to the music of Jaurim, a Korean pop group, and was surprised by its different musical form,” said Wang.
The music club used to be more of a band in the past. However, as many of the instrument playing students went back to their home countries, the music club today remains as a group of students who enjoy singing and learning music. “I like to sing for the club. We sing along with the songs that we like; although sometimes we just lip-sync,” said Smigielski Stanislas, a student from France who came to Korea to see his favorite Korean singer Seo Tai-ji.
Yuki Yamashita, a Japanese student, is the leader of the dance club, the third club at the ELC. Yamashita used to work at a hospital and at that time she had no time to exercise, although she had been interested in dancing since high school. She signed up for the dance club when she came to the ELC last year.
Yamashita said she has gained many benefits through participating in club activities “During practice, the members of our team tend to communicate in Korean which enables me to improve my Korean along with my dancing,” said Yamashita.
The dance club consists of over ten students. The students learn their dance moves from a professional dance teacher.
“We like to dance to popular Korean music,” said Yamashita. “In the past we danced to the music of Tong Vfang Xien Qi and Shinee, which are popular pop stars in Korea.
Last but not least, the photo club is the oldest club in the ELC which started during the autumn semester of 2007. The student members of the club visit various areas of Seoul. “Since we get to visit many places in Korea, we are able to learn cultural aspects easily,” said Corazon P. Parangan, a student from Philippines who is studying Korean at the ELC.
The members of the photo club first learn to handle cameras. After learning the techniques, they go outdoors to try taking pictures by themselves. “The hardest part was taking pictures in the dark. I had technical difficulties,” said Parangan.
“I have a very fun time with my students,” said Kim Ha-ryung, a Korean instructor at the ELC who is currently in charge of the photo club. "The club gives students the opportunity to sightsee in Seoul, have fun and build friendship.”
Every semester, ELC students come to Korea and go back home. Although the members of the sports club, the music club, the dance club, and the photo club change frequently, the clubs remain and continue to provide foreign students with the valuable memories and the energy to continue their studies in Korea.