Rather than spending summer vacation in countries sightseeing and spending nights in comfortable hotels, four Ewha students went to East Timor and participated in the 2008 Korea Internet Volunteer (KIV). KIV is an international volunteer program sending university students to countries where the infrastructure for Information Technology is insufficient, supported by Korea Agency for Digital Opportunity and Promotion.
As a part of the KIV program, 420 university students were selected as volunteer teachers at the Dili Institute of Technology, a private educational institute located in Dili, the capital of East Timor from July 29 to August 28.
Ewha Kolega, meaning Ewha friends in Tetum, a language spoken in East Timor, is a team consisting of four Ewha students—Park Ji-hye (Computer Information Communication Engineering, 4), Joo Seon-young (Economics, 3), Seol Se-mi (Computer Information Communication Engineering, 3) and Park Ji-eun (Television & Film, 2).
To Ewha Kolega, East Timor was a whole new world, especially in terms of its IT level. “Few students have a computer at home and only a few have their own email addresses. Also, Internet access is limited because of its expensive access fee and slow internet speed,” Joo said.
The team held education sessions about how to use programs like Adobe Flash, Namo WebEditor and Visual Basic to students majoring in Computer Science and IT three times a week. They also taught students who are not Computer Science and IT majors Microsoft Powerpoint, Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Access.
“Many students who are not majoring in Computer Science and IT have never used a computer before. So, we had to teach them from the elementary level: how to open a file or a program on Windows,” Joo said.
Not only did the team focus on computer education, but also put an effort for East Timorean to get to know more about Korea. The institute held an event called ‘Korean Night’ for Korean volunteers on August 15.
“We showed a video about Korea and our IT facilities and
we held a quiz show about new products manufactured by Korean electronic companies,” said Park who was in charge of cultural activities in the team. “Also, we sang Arirang wearing Hanbok, traditional Korean dress.” Park added.
The members of the team recollected that they came to realize that preconception that people usually have about other people or a country may sometimes be overly exaggerated. “For instance, when I told my family and friends that I was going to East Timor, they were concerned about my safety, mentioning the death of Korean soldiers dispatched there in 2003,” said Joo.
In contrary to those worries, Joo said that the place was pretty peaceful and safe overall. She also added that she was astounded by the fact that East Timorean and Indonesians do not hate each other even though East Timor was colonized by Indonesia in the past.
Friendship was another precious present for them during their volunteer experience. “We become close to some of the students and even had the chance to visit one of our friend’s house located in Ermera where it is famous for coffee and had a great time with her family,” said Joo.
They even went out with the family to play basketball all together, which reminded Joo about Korean families back at home who usually sit around the TV and say nothing.
The members added that they hope to be remembered not as teachers but as friends to the students, just like the literal meaning of their team name.