Every full-time undergraduate student at KAIST who entered after 2011 has experienced the Happy College Life (HCL) and Exciting College Life (ECL) programs in their freshman year. The KAIST Herald interviewed Mr. HyunJune Dhong, the manager of the Freshman Program Designers (FPDs) and proctors.
Could you tell us what the objectives of the ECL and HCL programs are?
The main purpose of these programs is to make freshmen mingle with other students. It’s not easy for shy and introverted students to make friends if they don’t have such programs.
[From our] surveys after ECL and HCL, many students think [the classes] have been helpful and release stress because KAIST is not an easy school. You have to study a lot and so meeting friends, watching music and orchestra, and doing hobby lectures [can] all help you to get accustomed to school life. [We get] around 95% satisfied results. The FPDs worked really hard, as the contents of the programs actually change a lot. The programs that we are continuing are the programs that students really liked; if students didn’t like it then we abolish it.
How do you plan the programs for freshmen?
We make schedules before [the] vacation starts, and think [about] what programs we should continue and how many new programs we should make based on the statistics. The FPDs meet on Wednesday and Sunday in summer vacation every week, for about four to five hours, and before the meeting they come up with their own ideas. The [program] purpose can be for a social gathering, which is the most important, or humanistic learning.. We try to make ECL and HCL as fun and sociable as possible, but some programs like sexual education [are provided because they are] important.
How do you organize and divide the tasks among your team?
FPDs design the programs and I participate in the design process. They need to get approved by me, the team leader, and the vice president of the Student Life Team. If they get approved I assign [the budget] for their programs and they assign tasks to their team members. For each program they have a team inside FPD. There are around ten people in FPD and there are more than 12 programs. We also have other non-regular programs like Travel K, mini games, and sports day. Proctors help so that the programs operate well on the day, but don’t really help in the designing or planning process. Freshman International Supporters (FIS) [also] help a lot on the day too, but they have more to do with counseling.
What values are you looking for in the FPDs, proctors, and FIS?
Responsibility, that’s the most important thing. And also teamwork: they don’t have to be a brilliant student because I’m not doing scientific research; in order to give freshmen guidance we really have to stick together and show them good examples There are ten FPDs [who] work together all the time — if there’s a problem it’ll be a nightmare. I hope the [new] FPDs can get along well next year. Foreigners can apply [to be] FPDs, but they have to be able to speak Korean very fluently, as the designing process has to be very logical. You have to contact lots of lecturers, companies, gather all the resources, and all these can’t be achieved if they can’t speak Korean. I think foreigners can also be proctors if they can speak Korean.
What are your hopes and plans for future freshman programs?
We try to put more weight, money, and resources on social gatherings. Next year it is the 10th year of FPDs. I like experimenting and trying something new, so if the designers agree to my ideas then I hope we can come up with more new programs. Everything has to be agreed upon; it’s very democratic. Also we want to try something artsy. Hopefully we can collaborate with the Da Vinci Point program.
Could you tell us some memorable behind-the-scenes moments?
[A new program,] “The Genius” has been implemented this semester. It requires a lot of rooms because for each class, we need two rooms. We [couldn’t use just] the Creative Learning Building, so we had to ask for permission to use the other buildings. That was really hard but we managed it and the students really loved it, so it felt very satisfying. The designing process was also very hard because it’s brand new and we had to come up with all the rules and questions.
Finally, would you like to say something to our readers?
If you’re a freshman, I feel really thankful [for the fact] that you’ve come and participated in all Thursday night programs. The FPDs put their best efforts to make the students love [the programs], so if [the students] love it, I feel very relieved. To other students who have graduated from their freshman year, you’ve done a really good job. If you have ideas, you don’t have to be an FPD — you can just tell me or team leaders, we’re always open to others’ opinions.
Seeing students really energized me because even though you study really hard, you [still] have this bright energy and I’m very thankful for it. I love my position because I can be in touch with all the students.