Due to the ongoing pandemic, students have become reliant on online announcements. However, many international students struggle to stay informed since most of the sources are only available in Korean.
Recent reports show that international student enrollment has shown a rapid rise. According to the Ministry of Education figures, the total number of international enrollments reached 160,165 in 2019, a significant increase from 91,332 in 2015. The rise was caused by the ministry’s effort to encourage globalization of campuses, which aims to increase the number of international students up to 200 thousand by 2023 in order to cope with the constant decrease of university students. Facilities and services offered for these students, however, have been slow to improve.
While Ewha’s homepage is the main information hub for most students, it does not provide much information in English. Surprisingly, only 29 out of 525 announcements uploaded this year were translated into English, and even these translations were uploaded one or two days after the original posting.
Barbara Batycka, a junior in the Division of International Studies from Poland, shared her experience of feeling left out due to the lack of information.
“There were times when the programs were in need of English speaking hosts, but the opportunities just passed by without me knowing,” Batycka said. “Even notices regarding COVID-19 from last semester were only provided in Korean.”
Batycka was disappointed to hear opinions claiming that she would easily understand all the notices they provide in Korean. She also mentioned that she would appreciate it if the school provides English titles on the notices, not to burden the whole translation.
Dai Luyang, a Chinese student of the Division of Communication & Media, pointed out that the International Student Office’s website contains photos and information that are outdated or even missing.
She commented that it would greatly benefit students if the school added Chinese headlines for news and announcements, which would allow students to quickly identify important information.
In addition, Korean students commonly use online communities to gather information. For example, Everytime, a student community application, offers helpful information regarding school events and student opinions on school issues.
Limited information for international students
But, since most online communities are not translated in English, those who feel more familiar with English than Korean often find these applications inaccessible.
Luyang mentioned that she mostly uses Chinese social networking applications to obtain school-related information. For instance, she utilizes WeChat, a frequently used chat application among Chinese students which connects students with different majors and academic years.
Under such circumstances, international students have figured out ways of gathering information. Asking friends is the most common way mentioned by all of the interviewees. As such, they placed additional emphasis on maintaining relationships and interacting with other international students.
Shen Yuyan, a Department of Communication & Media student from China, explained how international students keep up with each other through gatherings like Happy Hour and through a club where international students can support each other.
The 52nd General Student Council, Emotion, formed the International Student Task Force (ISTF) last October to deal with difficulties that international students face. Emotion stated that international students made up about 10 percent of undergraduate students in Ewha in 2019, so the ISTF will play a role in handling various school issues related to them.
Batycka described how ISTF reaches out to international students and puts efforts to resolve their problems.
“ISTF is basically a representative of international students,” Batycka explained. “By communicating with students, we discover and deliver the problem and its possible solutions to the school.”
According to Batycka, major difficulties of international students are language barriers and housing problems. Furthermore, she mentioned that continuous efforts regarding the lack of accessible information have been made by the ISTF by gathering diverse experiences from students.
“We hope that international students feel free to contact us so that we can figure out what we should do to help,” Batycka said.