For many students, studying abroad is an opportunity to widen their perspective and see the world that awaits them. Exchanging at a women’s university is one of the ways for Ewha students to understand parts of the direction that women are heading globally. Ewha Voice interviewed three Ewha students: Hwang Ho-jung and Choi Ji-yeon who are currently exchanging at Alverno College, and Jang Ji-hae at Agnes Scott College.
Why did you choose to exchange at a women’s university?
I had specific criteria in mind when I was considering the list of schools for exchange. I was looking for a school where I could attend courses related to education, since I am double majoring in Education, English Education, and Moral & Ethics Education.
Also, I preferred a small town with not too many Koreans living in the area. I chose Alverno College, which is a women’s university, because of the sense of security and belonging I felt while attending a girl’s middle school and high school and Ewha.
I originally applied for an exchange earlier and planned to leave Korea in the fall semester of 2020, but as the pandemic spread, I had to postpone the exchange for a year.
Since I was selected as an ISEP (International Student Exchange Program) exchange student, I was reassigned to an exchange school while delaying my schedule. I chose Agnes Scott College because I thought it would suit me the best. At first, I wanted to go to a coeducational university because I was attending a women’s university in Korea. However, looking back, I can see that I made the right decision.
What are some of the perceptions of women’s universities overseas?
There are not many prejudiced views towards women’s universities here, but people do seem to regard them as extraordinary, since only 31 out of 5,300 American universities are women’s universities.
My friends at Alverno think it is better than, if not the same, as other universities because they feel like it allows them to focus on their education without distractions.
Agnes Scott College:
I have never encountered an external negative perception while attending a women's university in America. Outside of school, when I introduce myself as a student at Agnes Scott College, people just see me as an ordinary college student.
In Korea, when I mention that I am attending a women’s university, I often receive comments that go along the lines of being “a dull person” or “girls in a war of nerves.” However, the individuals I met in the local area here do not seem to have any stereotypes about women's universities.
What are the differences and similarities between Ewha and your exchange university?
Both schools have an atmosphere of strong bonds between women, and the students have a strong tendency to help each other woman to woman. At Ewha, students tend to associate by sharing information with their peers and studying online independently, while students here help each other by creating small communities where everyone participates.
Alverno’s campus is about three times smaller than Ewha’s with only one cafeteria, and nearly 14 times smaller in student numbers. So while it is pretty tricky at Ewha to make friends with students you run into, here we get the benefit of bumping into one another very often, which makes bonding easier.
Agnes Scott College:
Ewha and Agnes Scott have similar atmospheres in terms of strong solidarity between students. Also, students in both schools are interested in activities that involve exploring and pioneering their own career paths.
As for differences, Agnes Scott’s campus is much smaller than Ewha’s. The public transportation system here is not as good as Seoul, so students usually spend most of their time on campus. I was also impressed that students and faculty members eat all three meals together in the dining hall.
For club activities, Ewha definitely has a more organized management system for student clubs. I have many special memories while doing club activities at Ewha, so I was very curious about the club culture here. Surprisingly, there are no specific club activities or meetings, except a few association clubs with students from other universities.
One striking difference is in the academic system. Students can earn four credits per class, so most students take only about four classes per semester. The running time of the courses is only an hour, which is much shorter than that in Ewha.
What are some special programs at your exchange university?
Alverno College is a small school, so the school tries to organize various events for students. The Student Activities Office regularly informs the list of activities and programs held each week to the entire school via email. These can span from Michigan houseboat tours to circuses, magic shows and school plays. We are also able to meet others by traveling to nearby cities and going to parties or other events. This creates a welcoming atmosphere where everyone can enjoy and casually meet different people. It would be nice to have these kinds of get-togethers at Ewha, too.
Agnes Scott College:
I found a system called the Center for Writing and Speaking (CWS) very helpful for students. Students experiencing difficulties while preparing essays or presentations can visit the center and receive corrections and feedback for free.
The tutors there are mainly a mix of juniors and seniors, and the school pays for their CWS activities. I think this system can support international students or students who are not confident with writing or presenting. Even at Ewha, I know that students who do not have much writing experience, especially freshmen and sophomores, have a hard time writing assignments. For them, the CWS system would be an efficient resolution.
In what parts does exchanging at a women’s university help you to understand the status of women in the global society?
Exchanging at a women’s university is an opportunity to discover a society that I have never experienced before by gaining experience where women can help each other and create good memories and achievements together. As women who will play an active role in the globalized society in the future, it is a great chance to experience a new environment in advance.
Honestly, I have always thought about how I should live as a person rather than a woman, so I have never consciously considered the status of women in the global society. Regardless of the school they enroll in, I hope everyone takes a chance to reexamine whether what is considered normal is actually normal, and have the courage to stick to their own beliefs.
Attending a women’s university in Korea and the United States, I could actively explore myself and seek various directions of life without limiting one's possibilities by any frame, particularly, gender. The fact that female students are not discriminated against according to gender but are equally recognized as students, they can freely pursue things without any limits created by gender. Therefore, the school itself is a stepping stone for students to advance into society.
What does your daily life look like at your exchange university?
I have a part-time campus job working in the school’s mailroom four hours a day as a student worker. Classes are half online and half in person. The campus is not large, and the buildings are connected, so we can move around easily without going out.
My friends here try to give me unique opportunities because I am an international student. I have participated in apple picking, a pumpkin patch, and the Summerfest. The school also connected me with a host family, so I was able to experience personal family events.
I am fully occupied with work and programs most of the time. As for academic work, I am currently taking on 18 credits that come with readings and papers due every week. Then I have my extracurricular programs like clubs. Also, I have joined the school play, so I have weekly rehearsals as well. I also work for the school library three days a week. Even with such a busy schedule, I still manage to find time to hang out with my friends, watch movies, and chat together.
Agnes Scott College started to allow face-to-face classes from the fall semester of 2021, thus I am currently going to school and taking classes. The international students use the apartment complex owned by the school as their dormitory, which is a seven-minute walk from the campus.
All the classes I take are in the Fine Arts Center. I tend to do all my additional assignments after class in the studio inside the center. I am taking two courses about visual arts and one course about theater.
Due to my interest in performing arts, I auditioned for “Through the Looking Glass,” a performance planned by the Theater and Dance Department in the school at the end of October, and participated as a cast.