|Choi Yu-young describes her semester as an exchange student at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Photo by Jeremy Desjardins.
The Office of International Affairs organized the 2017 Fall Study Abroad Fair on Nov. 2. This year, the Student Union Building hosted the fair, where various presentations, booths and events were held to invite an ever growing number of students interested in applying for exchange student programs.
Nineteen countries were represented in the booths, and presentations were given primarily by Ewha students who recently returned from their overseas exchange programs. Ewha Voice met two of the students, who studied in Hong Kong and Spain respectively, to hear their fascinating exchange experiences.
Choi Yu-young, a junior from Communication of the Division of Communications and Media, came back from the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK).
“Hong Kong is a bilingual country that uses English and Cantonese, so you can learn two languages at the same time,” Choi explained. “It is also only three hours flight from Seoul, so its accessibility was also one of my reasons for choosing Hong Kong.”
Choi explained that living in Hong Kong had other merits. The food was great, and during her experience, Choi has allegedly faced no racial discrimination, with Hong Kong being such a culturally diverse place.
“It is no wonder that Hong Kong is called the place where East meets West,” Choi said.
Choi also shared her experiences from CUHK. Similar to Ewha’s PEACE Buddy program, CUHK offers numerous cultural programs such as buddy gatherings, cultural tea tasting and college hiking events to welcome exchange students from all over the world. Choi also engaged in many volunteering experiences during her exchange.
“I participated in the ‘Light Up Myanmar’ project, which was organized and carried out by students,” Choi said. “Another one was the ‘Rural Local Primary School Service’ project, where we volunteered in local primary schools every two weeks.”
When asked about why she volunteered to give a presentation at the Fair, Choi explained that she wanted to show how much fun she had during her exchange experience.
“I just wanted to tell the world that I had so much fun in Hong Kong,” Choi said with a laugh. “By sharing my experience, I hope to encourage more Ewha students to apply for exchange programs.”
Another student that volunteered to give a presentation was Kwon Ki-in, a junior majoring in Philosophy. Kwon came back from Malaga, Spain, for her exchange program spring semester.
Since Malaga is not known as much as Barcelona or Madrid, Kwon described Malaga in detail.
“Warm weather continues throughout the year, and the sun is very hot, so wearing sunglasses is a good idea,” Kwon said. “Also, with the beach nearby, people hang out there almost everyday. Maybe this is why I felt the people in Malaga were always relaxed and friendly.”
The Universidad de Malaga, where Kwon took her exchange, had a very open atmosphere.
“Students are extremely friendly with their professors, and the professors’ offices are always open to students,” Kwon remarked. “At times, the professors would smoke on the balcony while discussing lecture contents with students. That’s how easygoing they are.”
The school also offered lenient policies, especially in terms of exams and grading.
“The professors give two chances to take a test, so if students feel like they didn’t do well on the first time around, they can try again,” Kwon said. “It also has an objective grading system with no curved grades or harsh competition, so students are very open to helping each other and sharing notes.”
However, Kwon also talked about some negative aspects of being an exchange student in Malaga.
“It was difficult to adapt to the language. The school was not accomodating to foreigners who had difficulty with Spanish,” Kwon explained. “The students and professors didn’t speak English fluently. However, this gave me the opportunity to practice Spanish.”
She especially adviced on preparation for students who were considering non-English countries.
“For those who want to go to non-English speaking countries, there are basically two ways to apply: one is to submit your essay, TOEFL score; and GPA. Another is to select a certain second language and take a test and an interview,” Kwon said. The latter is a good way if you’re sure what country you want to go to, since the test and interview is not too difficult.”
Like Choi, Kwon was interested in volunteering to inform and encourage more students who are interested in the exchange student programs.
“I got a lot of help during the previous Study Abroad Fairs from other students before I went abroad,” Kwon said. “That is why I especially wanted to return the favor to the Ewha community and help other students enlarge their worldview.”