What's Eating Ewha's Foreign Students?
What's Eating Ewha's Foreign Students?
  • Ewha Voice
  • 승인 2007.05.01 00:00
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▲ A cosier atmosphere at Yonsei University’s student cafeteria

By David McIlwain


Do you know how to cook? Would you survive well a year on your own without your mother’s cooking? These questions are often forefront in the mind of students contemplating overseas study at Ewha. At the same time, with trans fat and food quality stories filling the media these days, the question of good eating is never far from any students mind, local or international, and a question mark hangs over the ability of Ewha to provide its students with a satisfactory regime of meals. The problem can be further complicated by special dietary requirements, such as those directed by religious laws or vegetarianism, and with Sinchon being more expensive than other student neighborhoods, eating off campus everyday is not always a viable alternative.


Last semester international students were surveyed regarding their thoughts on the cafeteria and improvements that could be made. The results are somewhat disappointing to the students who participated in the questionnaire. After the survey, we find that a sushi buffet has been introduced and as a consequence the ever popular tonkatsu has been moved several hundred meters, to be inconveniently located at the far end of the building. Outside this, little appears to have changed.


Du Xiaoqiao (Xiamen University, 3), like a majority of students, is dissatisfied with the quality of the student cafeteria and has many helpful suggestions that could create a more student friendly and comfortable atmosphere. “It’s just not cozy. It’s cold and drafty and there’s absolutely no feeling like eating at home.” In fact, she often eats outside the campus and in the dormitory because of the poor facilities. She, like many students with whom the reporter spoke, wants the space transformed into a place where students can sit and chat together comfortably for longer periods after lunch is over. “Perhaps they could use some space near the windows to create a sort of café with coffee and cookies, somewhere warm and sunny to sit,” she suggested.


Perhaps for a model Ewha could look across the road to the example of Yonsei’s cafeterias. Students eating at Yonsei have a far greater range of eating options set amid greater comfort and convenience. At Yonsei there are several TV screens providing entertainment to those eating alone. It is also possible to order tea or coffee to enjoy after the meal. Yonsei exchange student, Alpha Cheng (University of Sydney, 3), feels that the smaller size of Yonsei’s food courts is important. “In comparison Ewha’s cafeteria is like a renovated airplain hangar, and just as cold in winter.” However, Cheng also feels that Yonsei’s eating options are poor when compared with the large food courts that are common at his Australian home university. “Maybe they should invite some businesses in from outside the campus to improve the services for the students.” Incidentally, many of the Yonsei students spoken to mentioned that Ewha women would get a friendly reception if they crossed the road to eat their lunch, so perhaps a boycott is a viable option!


Elisabeth Van Ingelgem (Leuven Catholic University, ’06) also expressed frustration at the poor eating options at the cafeteria. Although from Europe, Van Ingelgem says she does not expect a wide range of Western meal options but rather would be contented with quality Korean food prepared with fresh ingredients. “It’s not healthy so I feel like I cannot eat there everyday. Actually after one semester I was just fed up.” While not a vegetarian, Van Ingelgem speaks for many when she asks for more Western salads and fresh vegetables. “It’s good that they have the salad bar, but it’s not enough, they need to provide more fruit because it’s expensive for students to get fruit in Korea and we need it to be healthy,” she explained. If you do happen to be a vegetarian then your choices are limited and most find they need to create their own meals from supermarket excursions.


Unfortunately for those who through special dietary requirements must self-prepare meals cooking facilities in the dormitory are also inadequate. While first-class in many areas, the dorm unfortunately lacks the requirements for healthy home-style meal preparation. Instead, the appliances provided, such as toasters, kettles and microwaves, encourage a junk and fast food diet that students know they should avoid. Of the students spoken to, a majority have relied on instant noodles or other nutritionally deficient options for meals for some significant period of their stay. Among those who do manage to cook in the dorm, books with titles like “101 Microwave Recipes” are popular. Naturally no one spoken to felt this was an appropriate way to eat for a full and hectic semester.



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