Adjusting to a foreign country is always tough for everyone including international students. In order to overcome the difficulties, it is crucial for them to build relationships with other international students. To encourage better interactions, international clubs within the campus are being created giving these students a chance to build relationships with each other. Before the coronavirus outbreak, some clubs used to offer the opportunity to visit other countries and host offline parties. However, such activities became limited due to the pandemic. Despite such harsh conditions, many international clubs have found a way to offer diverse activities to the students.
The Korean Japan Student Forum (KJS forum) is working hard to build an interconnection between Korean and Japanese university students. This forum mainly consists of academic studies as well as cultural exchange. KJS Forum holds an annual symposium, in which students prepare their own thesis and make a speech in English. There are small seminars during the semester and students need to prepare a speech in groups mainly on economics, social, politics, culture and history. The KJS Forum also arranges English, Korean, and Japanese group studies during the vacation so that students can study different languages. Lee Ye-rim, the president of the KJS Forum and junior from the Department of Consumer Studies, shared her experience.
“The official language we use is English, so we do most of our studies in English,” Lee said. “Therefore, we have applicants who sign up for our forum not only for cultural exchange but also to improve their English, Korean or Japanese skills.”
Although academic studies take a huge part in the forum, there are a number of cultural exchanges as well. Before the pandemic, Korean and Japanese students used to visit each other’s country in rotation and enjoy an annual festival called ‘Korean Night’ and ‘Japanese Night.’ Students from both countries prepared a traditional dance or play and performed it in front of each other.
As for this year, Korean students performed the traditional play 'The Sun and the Moon’ which depicts the story of a brother and sister becoming the Sun and the Moon with a Japanese script. Due to the social distancing protocols, the play was broadcasted live on YouTube and the students could watch the play online.
Ewha Pie is a club for exchange between Korean and international students. The members used to go to restaurants to eat traditional food of different countries and throw a Halloween party, but there were some changes due to COVID-19.
“In our club, there are students from many countries such as Malaysia, Taiwan, Kazakhstan, Japan and so on,” said Kim Jisoo, the club president. “Because we could not go to restaurants this year, we delivered traditional food individually and ate them together through Zoom. We could share our food preferences and talk about each other’s traditional food online. We are also planning to celebrate Halloween together through Google Meet.”
When asked about the atmosphere of the club and concerns about conducting the activities online, Kim responded that she was rather relieved to see the members get along with each other.
“Because we have students from different nations, we use both Korean and English so no one feels excluded,” Kim noted. “The members showed great interest in each other’s culture and language is not a barrier for active communication. To add on, the biggest advantage of Ewha Pie is that we can become friends regardless of the cultural backgrounds.”
She added that she hopes to gain better cultural knowledge and learn to be openminded in a globalized society. At the end of the year, she is planning on making a culture encyclopedia with the members based on their cultural knowledge to share with other students.
Edwyna Kurniawan, a member of Ewha Pie shared her thoughts about the club. She noted that Ewha Pie enabled her to get to know people with diversified backgrounds and that she feels more accepted as a foreigner in this club.
“Although we could not meet in person, the impression I got from the members is that they are very welcoming and open to learning about different cultures,” Kurniawan said. “The most memorable activity is when I introduced the way Indonesians eat fried chicken. Students were interested when they found out fast food restaurants like KFC sold fried chicken with rice as a set meal in Indonesia.”