KAIST currently has 10,803 students, of which international students from various different countries make up 5 percent. The KAIST International Student Association (KISA) stands for their rights and helps their integration into the KAIST community.
Could you please briefly introduce yourself?
Hello, my name is Bill, I am from Mongolia and I am currently a junior majoring in Materials Science and Engineering. I’ve been an active member of KISA since my very first semester, and my last position before becoming KISA president was head of Events Committee.
What is your main objective as president of KISA?
Above all I would like to continue the excellent work from the previous administration, and keep promoting the integration of the international society. I completed my elementary education here in Korea, so when I came to KAIST I did not have many issues thanks to my language skills. However, I see that many of my foreign fellows either cluster themselves into nation-specific societies or get stuck indoors. My goal is to provide the means and motivation for the international students to enjoy all of the cultural richness that Korea offers.
What is your opinion on the Korean / international community interaction?
It is a complicated matter. In Mongolia, for example, if a foreigner comes to visit our country we usually do our best to help him, try to speak a language he can understand and so on. But if that visitor stays for a longer period, we also expect him to learn our language and get used to our culture. In my opinion, what happens is that both Koreans and international students don’t want to get out of their comfort zones. We all have tough schedules to deal with and after we find our way through it, it is unlikely that we would like to go through hassles again, for example, to communicate in a language which we are not good at. And it is so much easier to complain that the other is not doing their part rather than go and find the solution on your own.
Are there any current problems at KISA which you plan to solve while in charge?
I wouldn’t say that it is a problem, but it is always hard to work as a volunteer and still have to deal with the class workload. The cabinet members usually work more than their schedule would normally allow in order to provide different activities to the KAIST community. Some of the cabinet members also accumulate additional responsibilities. I would be very glad if we could find more people dedicated to our cause with whom we could share the workload of the current members.
So, for those who are interested in helping, how should they proceed to apply for KISA?
There are basically two types of KISA cabinet members: representatives and executive members. The representatives are usually chosen by their own country members, and are the main bridge between KISA and the international student body. The executive members are usually volunteers who either were very active representatives or people who volunteered through online application. Anyone willing to help KISA is welcome to apply.
Is that valid for Korean students as well?
Of course! Korean members are also welcome to join us.
I see. In the past, KISA has been conducting several activities to help the integration of the international and Korean communities. Are there any of such activities planned for this year?
So far we haven’t had any activities, but soon International Movie Nights will be available again for those who enjoy different films. Our famous International Food Festival will be held along with the school spring festival, followed by the Sports Festival and probably the second edition of the KISA Halloween Party, which will be held during the fall semester.
Any last words for the international students?
I would like to say to all my fellow students that, even though the importance of studying cannot be ignored, there is more to college life. Many people here at KAIST seem to have few good memories of their undergraduate years, whereas in other universities it is one of the best times of the students’ lives. I hope that we all can enjoy happier days and build memories to carry on and be proud of.