OSWEGO — The anticipated arrival at SUNY Oswego of at least 40 degree-seeking South Korean students in January has generated a multilayered effort to prepare for them and to boost campus awareness of all international students.
When the students arrive for the spring semester — and a three-year-stay — from Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul and a smaller program in the East Asian country, SUNY Oswego’s international student population will top 200 for the first time, up from the current 158. That’s an increase of more than 25 percent, while remaining a fraction of the college’s nearly 8,000 full- and part-time undergraduate and graduate students.
The Office of International Education and Programs, a provost-led cross-campus committee and the college’s new Institute for Global Engagement have worked with Korean faculty and students to make sure the college is ready in terms of welcome, housing, curriculum, professional development and campus culture.
“We are positioned to welcome a large cohort of international students, and in so doing to grow the profile of international students on this campus,” said Joshua McKeown, director of international education and programs. “I feel very confident of where SUNY Oswego is in terms of welcoming international students. We have seen tremendous campus buy-in.”
McKeown and others pointed to numerous benefits of a growing and vibrant population of students from other countries: amplifying intercultural awareness in an era of globalization; boosting interest among Americans to study, teach or do research abroad; establishing relationships with students from new global economic powerhouses such as Korea; and presenting the opportunity for lifelong friendships.
Mentors and more
A native of Daegu, South Korea, associate professor Taejin Jung of the communication studies department said McKeown approached him — as someone who has been instrumental in forging partnerships with Korean universities — to develop a workshop to help raise faculty awareness about Korean culture, the educational system and students’ goals and dreams. The workshop will be co-facilitated by Minjung Seo of the health promotion and wellness department.
“It is important to understand that education is the number one priority” in Korea, Jung said. “Many parents are determined to invest whatever they can financially — sometimes even beyond their capacity. Their children sacrifice many things for this — family, money, time and friends in Korea.”
McKeown noted that international students pay out-of-state tuition as well travel and other costs. Oswego students also have opted to study in East Asia as a result of partnerships the college began there in recent years. However, he said, the agreement with Hankuk is not an “exchange” — it is a degree program requiring admission review for enrollment in SUNY Oswego following a year of study at the university in Seoul.
Korean students at SUNY Oswego — there are about 18, including exchange students, on campus now — have been assisting the effort to welcome their compatriots and build cultural awareness.
Eun Sung Chun, Hyeji Kim, Jean Hong and Hongki Kim, all second-semester sophomores participating in the 1 + 3 program with Hankuk, expressed pride in their home country and in SUNY Oswego, and believe cross-cultural knowledge and interaction can help both Korean and American students.
They are helping to form the Korean Student Association on campus.
There is much to learn from both sides of the Pacific Ocean, said Hyeji Kim, such as how personalities and mindsets are as much a product of their culture as are Americans’.
“An extrovert in Korea, compared with American students, may seem introverted here,” Kim said. “It was hard to make friends when we first came.”
Jean Hong agreed, saying, “We are taught not to make any mistakes in English. What if we appear dumb? But I found that people in America think I’m fluent even though I make a lot of mistakes.”
Having made the adjustment — and many new friends — the four students say the new association will welcome American members as well. The Koreans believe it will add a layer of familiarity and common ground for helping new students adjust.
Another effort, McKeown said, will be to pair each new Korean student with an American transfer mentor, even before the semester begins, providing a mini-forum for practicing conversational English and learning what to expect.
McKeown and Jung expect many new Korean students to choose the Hart Hall Global Living and Learning Center, which provides an academic and residential experience with faculty, American students and many other nationalities represented. The greatest numbers of incoming students are majoring, in order, in business administration, psychology, marketing, global and international studies and communication studies.