Yesterday was my last day at Korea University so I thought I should write something about the education system in Korea. Or at least, my exchange experience. :) Prepare yourself for a long boring entry!
First of all I was very impressed with the infrastructure, the campus is huge, nothing to see with Paris small, sometimes dirty, universities. I mean, look at the pictures! It is almost like an independent city. And this is not because Korea University is one of the best uni in Korea, all campuses I've seen are huge and beautiful like this. Everything is within reach: convenience store, café, museum, stadium, bank, post office, gym, even ice rink (famous figure skater Kim Yuna is from Kodae).
Note: in Korean, university is 대학교 (dae-hag-gyo), litterally "big school", to shorten the names of universities, most of the time, you take the first part of the university name and add 대 (dae). Korea University is 고려대학교 (koryo dae haggyo) so that gives us 고대 (kodae). Hongdae = Hongik university, Edae = Ewha's women university, Gyodae = Seoul National University, etc. This is like Japanese and Tokyo University = Tokyo daigaku = Todai :)
I don't know much about other colleges, only the Business School (KUBS). I thought all other colleges were this neat and clean but apparently not! They still are way more luxurious than any school in France I think, haha. I love how everything is super modern and clean and everything is available for students: need to borrow a laptop? Watch a DVD? etc. etc. The studying conditions are more than WOW. It is really motivating.
On the left is the Business School main building and in front of you, the LG-Posco sponsorized building. It was built after the main building and most of my classes were here. :)
Also, the Business School and other campus buildings are connected by an underground passageway!
Groupwork with Korean students
Working with Korean students. I can't hide it was really hard. I mean, I was never fond of group assignments at school, it's —forgive me— a pain in the ass. In my mother tongue where all the team members could understand each other perfectly, it was already difficult so think about it in a foreign language. There are lots, lots, lots of misunderstandings.
Over the past few years, Korean universities opened themselves to foreign students and learning english is a national effort (I mean, look at all the english teachers here!). In Korea University, about 40% of classes are taught in english, it wasn't the case a decade ago! I met a lot of people who could speak english very well (especially those who went to study abroad), some who use broken english and some other students who can't speak at all.
I was playing "undercover" at school, I didn't want to mix too much with other exchange students, I came to Korea to meet Korean people! XD And I know how it often ends up: foreigners stay with foreigners, it's easier. Besides, there were many other French exchange students and I didn't come here to meet French people, I was so so eager to meet Koreans :) Being asian helped, I was certainly not taken for an European girl, and some French people even talked to me in english. (That was funny) So for my class group projects, I tried to be with Koreans. It's also because I wanted to improve my Korean and it helped me a bit. By the end of the semester I could understand some things they said :D
It was harsh. I can't generalize what I say to all Korean students, certainly not, and what I'm saying is based on only four groups I had. I was struggling between accepting the way they worked or doing it "western style". For example, for one assignment, we had a paper to write. After agreeing on the contents and the parts, we decided to split the parts. Unfortunately, two students only copy/pasted information from the internet, it didn't seem to bother them! I know students do this in France too, but not this blatantly, they try to "tweak" it, and it is severely punished by teachers. Here, even though some teachers issued warnings about plagiarism, they didn't seem to check (even though you can guess just by reading it).
Ah, an incredible thing (but not for book publishers): you can make full copies of books! It's of course super forbidden, but in Korea, you can just borrow the book at the library, bring it to the copy service, and the day after, you have your book, they even reproduce the cover. No need to buy the original one, you can save thousands of wons! XD
Anyway, in some other assignment, we had a group presentation to make, and powerpoint slides to prepare. A student copied entire news articles from newspapers websites and pasted it in his slides. What the...? I feel like they don't have any preparation to do presentations? They tend to write a lot of things on the slides, and often write down what they have to say on cards and just read it to the audience (I can understand this though, because some can't speak english very well). While I saw some really good presentations, some students in my groups were reluctant to add some "dynamism". I was told that alternating speakers added more dynamism to a presentation, and some students just refused it. I was called last minute at night just before our presentation to be told we have to change everything. Sometimes we wrote papers and in the last moment, had to erase entire pages. I heard other foreign students having this problem too, last minute changes, changes without notices, etc.
Ah, this sounds like a lot of complaining! XD Even though some aspects of groupwork were a pain, what I liked though is that Korean students always did things on time. If we agreed to finish our parts for X date, they will have it ready. However, the same can't be said about appointments! I know it's in the Korean culture to be late, but sometimes, it just drove me crazy. Without any notice, they will cancel the appointment, they just don't show up! They often arrived late, and sometimes even changed the date of the meeting without asking you first! A lot of people think Koreans and Japanese people are similar. They sure share some traits but I think they're really different. And this is one of the difference.
Yeah, so it sounds like I didn't have a good time but I did. I really did. I know most of these "roadblocks" were caused by cultural differences and miscommunication. Education system in France is really different and the Korean education system is inspired by the American one. And I don't believe in students exchanges anyway. I mean, I don't think you can learn anything in class during a student exchange, a student exchange is to learn about culture. This is just my opinion and what I had in mind when coming to Korea :)
I know it's not always effective but students here do work a lot (just look at their notebooks, the index cards, the prints, etc.) and a lot of high school students go to "hagwon" where they have classes until past midnight. Anyway, I noticed something interesting. I had four classes, two by Korean teachers and two by foreign teachers (German and New Zealander). The tests by Korean teachers were multiple choice and fill in the blanks, you had to know the textbooks by heart. The tests for the foreign teachers classes were essays. Once again, I can't generalize, but I think it demonstrates pretty well the culture of "learn everything by heart, even if you don't understand". XD
Also, the class before the finals, one Korean teacher showed us questions from last semester's test and we corrected it in class. Guess what, it was the very same test yesterday x_x
I wouldn't want to stay an other semester because I'm not made for school, I just want to graduate quickly and find a job. However, if I had to do it all over again, I WOULD! :D Okay, this was a very long post.