October has come, and the dust is starting to settle. The weather is getting colder, and both people and midterm panic are starting to settle in. However, it’s never too late to introduce some new faces, and certainly not for the international community. This past September, the International Students and Scholars Services (ISSS) introduced their newest Student Services Coordinator, Sejin Ban. The KAIST Herald asked her a few questions regarding her introduction and her role in the international community.
Please briefly introduce yourself and your position here at ISSS.
Hello, my name is Sejin Ban. I am the new coordinator here at ISSS, and I am in charge of immigration services such as helping students with their visas and alien registration. Before coming to ISSS, I was a convention organizer in Seoul, and was in a similar role helping foreigners in Korea.
What brings you to ISSS?
Well, I was interested in international work for a long time. Since high school, I have been partaking in various exchange programs and I eventually came to see the work being done at the international relations office. These experiences made me want to pursue the same line of work, and it made me want to help other students experience the world.
Though your time at ISSS hasn’t been long, what are your impressions of the international community?
The community seems very nice, but one thing I really liked was the diversity. KAIST, compared to other places I worked, is much more diverse and it was a nice thing to see. I also liked the atmosphere at the ISSS; I felt a good sense of teamwork and work ethic here, and I know we can work well together.
What are some aspects of the community you think need to be improved?
Last semester, ISSS sent a survey to the international students. It was a very large survey with many questions regarding their campus life such as those on food and accommodation. The most common problem is the language barrier. They know that communication is crucial to their university life, but they feel they are not receiving enough motivation to learn the language.
So how is ISSS providing this motivation?
There is the initial graduation requirement of receiving a level two in the Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK), but this is only rudimentary and doesn’t cover a lot of essential areas. A while back, ISSS tried to announce the TOPIK test scores of students who took higher levels than level two to stimulate the rest of the community to go the extra mile and learn more Korean. However, this led to more pressure and stress on the community, as some did not have the time in their schedules to learn and reach this level of Korean.
I think we should provide more direct methods to help the internationals. One of the best ways to learn the language is to talk with Koreans and make new friends, but I understand how difficult that might be for some. That’s why we have programs such as the Buddy Program at the beginning of the year to provide a starting point for both parties. Later on in the semester, there are cultural lectures open to everyone, hosted three times a semester.
For future projects, I was thinking of starting a culture exchange program within Daejeon. I am thinking of working with the public and schools to create events and seminars with two goals; one is to provide the internationals with a comfortable and interactive way of learning Korean and becoming suited to the Korean culture. The other is to strengthen ties between KAIST and the public so that in the future we can provide more services and hold more events.
How does the future of KAIST’s international community look to you?
KAIST is already seeing an increasing number of students coming from all around the globe. The school is already known for its diversity, but with the increasing influx of students along with KAIST’s increasing global ranking, I can only see good things to come.
Any last comments you would like to say?
I don’t have anything special to say other than I look forward to meeting you all. I will do my best to help you with all of your questions and concerns. Thank you for having me!