Ewha Mate, a program conducted by the Office of International Student Affairs, helps international students at Ewha to adapt to school life in Korea. Taking dormitory tours and participating in school events, the students spend more than 20 hours together each semester. Unlike mentees of the Ewha PEACE Buddy (Professional Ewhaians at Cultural Exchange) program who are exchange students, mentees of the Ewha Mate program are international students staying in Korea for four school years.
Tan Hooi Wem, a senior majoring in Korean Language & Literature, is a mentor in the Ewha Mate program. She used to be a mentee when she first left her hometown in Malaysia to pursue her dreams in Korea. After receiving help from mentors to adapt to campus life, she was inspired to further share her experience and provide study guides to new foreign students. The charm of Ewha Mate is the friendly interaction between the mentor and the mentee. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, she has not been able to meet her mentee in person yet.
“My mentee is currently in China, so we use Zoom to connect with each other,” Wem said. “As we cannot talk face to face, our activities are relatively limited, but we try to spend meaningful time sharing information about designated topics.”
She further explained that an advantage of doing activities individually is that the mentor and mentee can create rapport after helping each other and sharing interests.
“This program helped me gain a deeper understanding of Chinese culture,” Wem noted. “My fellow mentors and I are most satisfied when seeing our mentees do well in their first semester. It feels most rewarding when I get back in touch with the mentees the next semester.”
Another participant of the Ewha Mate program, Lee Ji-eun, a senior from the Department of Korean Music, was a mentor to various foreign students. Ha Ji-ou, a junior majoring in geography education, was a mentor to two Chinese students last year for one semester. Lee and Ha joined the program to be mentors because they wanted to become culturally open-minded by communicating with people from different countries. More importantly, they wanted to help them adapt to a new lifestyle because they understood the fear and difficulties that foreign students might experience.
Although their mentees were not able to come and experience the university life in Korea first hand due to the pandemic, they gave a virtual reality tour of the school campus. In addition, their mentees were able to exchange cultural ideas with them and learn more about Korea.
“I tried to inform my mentees as much as possible given the current circumstances,” Lee said. “I used street view maps to introduce the streets around Ewha, informed them of school festivals, watched videos about school clubs together, helped them participate in exhibitions, and much more.”
“Because Ewha Mate mentees spend more time in Korea than exchange students, they took great interest in the Korean lifestyle and culture,” Ha said. “Since they stayed at Ewha for four years, I was able to establish a deeper relationship with them. I still keep in contact with them even though I am no longer part of the program anymore. I still remember the moment of happiness of sending the school hoodies via delivery service to my mentees. It made me happy to see pictures of them wearing the school hoodies.”