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Outbound Exchange Student Program: Feel the Flow of the Global World

October is the month where we see yellow ginkgo leaves and the end of the year beckons. Some Kingos may be in deep thought about their future and others may start to prepare to spend a semester or a year abroad as exchange students. This fall, an outbound exchange student briefing session will be held. Therefore, the Sungkyun Times (SKT) now introduces the outbound exchange student program at SKKU, investigates Kingos’ perceptions of the program, and proposes possible improvements based on a survey conducted by the SKT.

Outbound Exchange Student Program at SKKU

What Is the Outbound Exchange Student Program?

The outbound exchange student program is a program that dispatches Kingos to foreign universities for one or two semesters. In contrast, an inbound exchange student program refers to a program that accommodates foreign students at SKKU. The outbound exchange student program can be categorized into two parts: an exchange student program and a foreign student program. An exchange student program is a program where Kingos are dispatched to foreign universities that have a contract with SKKU. Therefore, they only pay tuition fees to SKKU, not to the foreign university. On the other hand, a foreign student program is a program that dispatches Kingos to a foreign university that doesn’t have a contract with SKKU; the student is required to pay tuition fees to both SKKU and the foreign university. Yet, participants of the foreign student program receive 80% of the tuition fee they paid to their home university back as part of a foreign student program scholarship. Most Kingos take the foreign student program through the Study Abroad Foundation (SAF), which is a nonprofit public education foundation in the United States (US) that provides students around the world with an opportunity to study overseas.

Process of Outbound Exchange Student Program at SKKU

The outbound exchange student program at SKKU has several steps that Kingos would need prior to being dispatched. First, SKKU hosts an outbound exchange student briefing session, two semesters before dispatching students. Through the session, information about the process of the program is explained to the Kingos who are interested in or planning on going abroad as exchange students. Second, about a month after the session, a list of available universities and an application schedule are available on the exchange student bulletin board” section of the SKKU official website. On the list, students can check the qualifications that are required, such as the major and the school year that the foreign university accept, the number of students to be accepted, language requirements, deadline for application, and available classes at the foreign university. Third, about three months after the list is uploaded, the application period starts. That is, for three months students can prepare the requirements for application such as language requirements or overseas living expenses.

Kingos who attend the outbound exchange student briefing session this fall will be dispatched during the fall semester 2019. One month later, in November, the list of available universities will be released. Finally, in January 2019, the application period starts.

Application Form of Outbound Exchange Student Program on Golden Lawn Square (GLS)

The application schedule then consists of two phases: the application phase and the interview phase. During the application phase, applicants fill out the preferred list of
universities and department in an application form and submit the screenshot of the required language exam score. When writing down preferred universities, applicants can apply for up to a five universities. When the applicants of the foreign student program apply through the SAF, they can apply for up to three universities. A single applicant, therefore, can apply for up to a total of eight universities. Moreover, when filling out their course department, applicants need to choose the major courses they want to take at the foreign university. For example, an applicant who majors both in English Language and Literature and in Business Administration has to choose only one to write down. If the student wants to attend a business course at a foreign university, he or she can write down “Business Administration” on the preferred course department section. One month later, an announcement of the applicants who passed the application phase and their interview schedule is posted on the school website.

The ways to sign up for specific classes at a foreign university differ school by school. To enroll into the specific classes, therefore, students can refer to the guideline of the university they are supposed to be dispatched to. After they return to Korea, students should bring the report card they received from the foreign university and convert it into credits at SKKU.

Current Status of Outbound Exchange Student Program at SKKU

Current Situation of the Program

A dispatch of an outbound exchange student takes place twice a year: during the spring and fall semester. In the spring semester, about 250 to 300 students are dispatched. In the fall semester, approximately 300 students are dispatched. According to the Office of International Relations (OIR) at SKKU, Kingos prefer to be dispatched to universities in the United Kingdom (UK), Germany, and Netherlands. Europe tends to be preferred due to its convenience of traveling to neighboring countries; in that sense, the US is not so popular. Most students use English as their second language, so the UK seems to be highly referred due to the ease ofcommunication with the locals. On the other hand, students highly prefer a foreign university where other students have been dispatched in previous semesters, for that means that the conversion of credits from the foreign university to SKKU is simpler when precedential cases exist.

While many students aim to study abroad, students also feel a burden about the possibility of failure in their application. If the applicant widens up the boundaries of aiming to go to a specific country only, however, a Table of Organization (TO) on universities of the country always exists. Not only Asian universities, but also American and European universities, have room for exchange students. Although there is a common belief that the competition for application is strong, competition rates of applicants for each university is usually always about 1:1, and rarely 2:1, according to OIR.

Kingos’ Recognition on Outbound Exchange Student Program

1. Irrelevance to Getting a Job
According to a survey conducted on 100 Kingos, 95% of respondents said that the main reason for Kingos participating in the outbound exchange student program is to experience foreign culture with a response rate of 95%. On the other hand, only 9% of the respondents answered that the program would be helpful for getting a job.

In the current situation, while SKKU has been continuously concluding contracts with foreign universities, the number of applicants for the outbound exchange student program has not increased. In the past, students recognized the outbound exchange student program as one of preparation for getting their jobs. Now, in contrast, students perceive the program as a time for traveling or taking a semester or a year off. As a result, companies do not consider exchange student experience to be important when hiring employees. Indeed, more and more students concentrate on job preparation as getting a job has become harder, rather than participating in the outbound exchange student program.

In particular, Kingos in science or engineering majors show lower number of applicants for the exchange student program than Kingos majoring in others. Indeed, according to the survey, 40% of respondents on the Natural Sciences Campus answered that they would not participate in the outbound exchange student program, while only 10% of respondents on the Humanities and Social Sciences Campus answered that they would not participate. According to OIR, Kingos in science or engineering majors do not have enough time to spend a semester or a year as an exchange student. They must follow up the curriculum of their majors, which is relatively more interdependent between semesters so that even a single semester in an other university can damage their overall understanding of their major subjects. Furthermore, while Kingos majoring in foreign languages have legitimate reasons to participate in the exchange student program, which is to expand their understanding of their majors, those in science or engineering majors cannot always find a legitimate reason as to why they should study abroad. Thus, they tend to perceive that acquiring more experience in their country is more efficient than participating in the exchange student program.

2. Problems in Credit Conversion Process
According to the survey conducted by OIR in 2017, Kingos have a heavy burden for acquiring grades at a foreign university. Getting high grades at a foreign university is difficult for students mainly due to language barriers and different grading systems.

In the survey, 60% of Kingos said that the selection of classes for getting credits and the conversion of grades from a foreign school to SKKU are the biggest problems they experience. This means that most Kingos participating in the outbound exchange student program have more difficulties in planning curriculums at a foreign university than any other problems. The main causes for this problem are essentially the complicated process of converting grades from a foreign university to SKKU and the lack of information on foreign university classes that SKKU gives credit for.

Improvement of Outbound Exchange Student Program at SKKU

Current Efforts of SKKU
SKKU basically tries to dispatch students overseas as much as possible, since the outbound exchange student program provides students with the opportunity to attain a global perspective through overseas experiences. Therefore, the university continuously puts efforts into improving the program.
The university encourages participants to widen their sphere of activities overseas, not only to confine them to school study. Therefore, the Academic Affairs Division at SKKU has been running the summer intensive course since 2016. The summer intensive course is an academic course designed to encourage students to participate in the outbound exchange student program by reducing the burden by allowing students to take next semester’s classes in advance for up to nine credits with no additional fees. Moreover, understanding students’ difficulties in acquiring grades at a foreign university, since the 2018 spring semester, converting letter grades from a foreign university to pass fail grades at SKKU has been available, which significantly lowered the burden of Kingos.

Improvement Proposal on Outbound Exchange Student Program
1. Constructing Program Guideline Based on Majors
The perception that exchange student experience does not bring much comparative advantage in their future careers exists among students in science or engineering majors. So, what Kingos can get from the exchange student experience needs to be publicized more. Information about being dispatched to a country with cutting-edge science and technology can help Kingos in science or engineering majors expand their knowledge of their majors and can be publicized through the social network service (SNS) and the university press.

Also, by constructing academic guidelines for each specific major, the outbound exchange student program can be perceived as a meaningful activity in one’s career, rather than a program simply perceived as a means for a semester or a year off. To illustrate this, in the case of the School of Confucian and Oriental Studies, the school can construct a specific course guideline for applying for a university in China or other Asian countries under the recommendation of professors.

2. Developing Outbound Exchange Student Platform

The New Online SKKU Community “SKKU:ter”

Currently, Kingos who participate in the outbound exchange student program have to do everything on their own from booking their flights to interviewing previous dispatched students. What is worse, the necessary information and websites to get information from are all scattered in different places, which causes huge inconvenience to applicants. Therefore, this semester, the 50th student council, S:with, has launched a new online community for Kingos SKKU. On the new website, an exchange student program section has newly been established. On further platforms, two types of contents would be necessary: integrated information from the application process to the conversion of credits back in Korea and a program connecting a participant with previously dispatched students.

The world is rapidly changing, and as members of a globalized world, Kingos should catch up with the flow of the global world. The outbound exchange student program is a great opportunity to get into this flow since Kingos can interact with locals for a certain period. For a better experience as an exchange student, students and the university should cooperate to make a better outbound exchange student program at SKKU.

이소윤  oyatleee@skku.edu

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