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Internationals Left Out?
[ Issue 107 Page 6 ] Thursday, May 12, 2011, 00:57:07 Jiwon Kim madeline@kaist.ac.kr

International students are an important part of KAIST society. Entering with proficient English skills, they help provide a great English-speaking environment. Hailing from various nations, they enrich the cultural experience at KAIST. Domestic students learn how to work with people from various backgrounds while spending time with international students. In short, the international students are an indicator of how much KAIST has progressed as a world-leading research institute. Consequently, the number of international students has a great effect in ranking schools and KAIST has been trying to recruit students with exceptional abilities from all around the world.

Now that KAIST is full of foreign students from numerous countries, we have to ask this question: are we treating them fairly? Tragic events took place in the last couple of months. Grievances, regrets and anger swept through the KAIST campus as the deaths of those who were fellow students and friends came as a great shock to everyone. To deal with the shock, people expressed their emotions and ideas in different ways; while some prayed in silence for those who passed away, others tried to find out what caused their friends and professor to commit suicide and in this chaos, the international students were left out. While the disastrous events were taking place, there were neither official notifications nor comments from the school. The international students, many of whom do not speak or understand Korean fluently, had very limited sources of information and had to depend on friends or rumors. The international students were exposed to the insecure atmosphere without knowing the full story. Also, unlike domestic students who have their family near them, foreign students are alone in an unfamiliar country. There was little consideration for them.

Naturally, international students did not have a chance to express their opinions in the course of events. They were excluded from the Committee on Teaching Innovation. There are student representatives in the committee, but it is unlikely that their opinions fit exactly with those of the foreign students. There could definitely be areas where domestic students’ and international students’ interests are in disagreement. English lecturing, which has been a hot topic lately, is one example. Most domestic students feel a great burden in having to take classes in English, which is not their first language. As proof, they voted for a reduction in English lectures at the Emergency Undergraduate Student Assembly. On the other hand, English lectures are crucial for foreign students who cannot speak Korean and thus would not want such a reduction. Whether because they have not heard about the Emergency Undergraduate Student Assembly or did not have a chance to reveal their thoughts on the issue, the school and domestic students remain unaware of the international students’ opinions. As a part of the KAIST community, international students should have a say in the decision.

Communication is a crucial part of a society, especially for one that is having difficulties. Now, the school administration and the student body are working together to achieve better results. Changing policies is not the main problem. Before discussing how to change things, we should talk about what things we need to change. In short, communication has to come before policy and debate and every interest group should have a chance to converse with each other.

Although it has increased over the years, the number of international students is still small compared to that of domestic students. They are the minority in KAIST society. It means their opinion could be neglected easily if we do not pay close attention. Ignoring the minorities’ opinions could impede the healing process. What we have to keep in mind is that it takes more to correct the wrongs than just putting together all the opinions. International students are a part of KAIST and they should get what they deserve.

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