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Lack of a Chance to Promote Friendship for Freshmen

Last semester, Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU) canceled the matriculation ceremony and orientation due to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Also, all the classes last semester were held online, so most of the freshmen had no chance to visit the lecture rooms in the school. As such, for freshmen, it was hard to meet each other and make friends. Besides this, senior-junior relationships that can be formed through diverse events became weak since there is no interaction. The Sungkyun Times (SKT) will look at the last semester’s situation, problems that freshmen experienced, and SKKU’s possible efforts to ameliorate the current situation.

The Situation of Last Semester

Relationships Between Freshmen

All the annual events such as the matriculation ceremony, orientation (OT), and membership training (MT) have been canceled due to COVID-19, which are usually chances for freshmen to get in contact with each other. Normally, freshmen, who will be assigned to a specific major in the second year, meet with the same learning community (LC) before the official matriculation ceremony, but this event was also canceled. An LC is a random group of about 23 freshmen, from both the Humanities and Social Sciences Campus and Natural Sciences Campus, organized by SKKU. Also, most of the school clubs delayed recruiting or had online activities. Therefore, the group chatrooms of Kakaotalk, the most renowned messaging application in Korea, was the only way to interact with other freshmen. Some of the freshmen gathered offline near Seoul in small groups. Freshmen living in the provinces, however, had difficulties in attending, including transportation expenses, the long travel time, and accommodation issues. The Freshman Guide (FG) prepared online Freshmen Missions for freshmen on both campuses. FG is SKKU’s sophomore club that helps freshmen adjust to their university life. Freshmen Missions were like sharing pictures of their timetables and meals. Freshmen who have specific majors such as Business had no common online event because there is no student association or clubs for Business major freshmen like FG.

Matriculation Ceremony in 2019 (incheonilbo.com)

Relationship with Seniors and Juniors

School activities such as MT, and OT are important events for getting to know seniors as well as freshmen but these have been canceled. Also, clubs are a great place to get to know seniors; however, the recruitment of new members in most clubs has been delayed and activities were online. So, most of the freshmen had difficulties in interacting with seniors. From this year, SKKU has newly made a new convergence LC, which consists of freshmen on both the Humanities and Social Sciences Campus and Natural Sciences Campus. This new type of LC made it more difficult for freshmen to contact with seniors; because there is no senior LC for them, so they cannot join with senior LC that had been traditionally progressed. For Business major students, they scheduled to start their Family Institution earlier than last year, but it was postponed to the second semester due to COVID-19. The Family Institution is a scheme to enhance communication for Business major students. One Family Institution is composed of one senior and one junior or two seniors and two juniors.

Problems of Freshmen in Their School Life

Lack of Friendship and Information Exchange

The chance for freshmen to meet and build friendships with others has noticeably decreased due to the several cancellations of events and online classes. In general, people get closer by taking classes together and working on assignments together, but freshmen this year cannot. For instance, freshmen had to make a prototype for a project in the Creative Convergence Design class, and the leader had difficulty making the prototype due to a lack of communication. So, some leaders had great pressure and felt the burden to make it. Anonymous student A (Freshman, Department of Humanities) who took that lecture said, “My team’s leader made a prototype alone. The leader often took pictures and videos while working on the prototype. I think leaders had much more burden than team members.” Also, Anonymous student B (Freshman, Global Business Administration) who was a team leader of the same class said, “I felt a lot of pressure while making the prototype because I was not good at making things, and I worried about the expectation from team members on me. Team members gave me feedback, but it was not that helpful in that feedbacks because they were made online.” Like this, freshmen had a hard time because they had difficulty in communications and giving feedback. Freshmen might have curiosity about their school. They can solve their curiosity by asking questions to seniors that they might meet from different school events and club activities, but this year there were few places for this opportunity. When they could not solve their curiosity, even though they tried by themselves, they might ask other freshmen in group chatrooms; however, others might find it hard to answer to that because they are also freshmen who have many questions. As well as this, foreign national students who are going to enroll in the second semester will find it hard to adjust to school. There are two types of foreign national students; students who enroll in the first semester with other Korean students, and the other is students who enroll in the second semester. SKKU does not normally organize specific events that help second semester-enrolled students to adjust to school. What is worse is that this year, the first semester enrolled students also did not have enough opportunity to interact with others.

Lack of Experience

Next year, if the COVID-19 pandemic gets better, school events will be held as usual. Then the next seniors who are the current freshmen this year will be in charge of the MT although they do not know anything. Since most of the freshmen of this year did not experience several big events like MT, next year’s MT will be hard to run. Many cultures will undergo some trouble; however, clubs will have the most difficulties. Freshmen and sophomores are usually the executives of the clubs. This year, as I mentioned above, most clubs postponed the recruiting from the first semester to the second semester, and activities were held online. Therefore, freshmen who need to manage a club next year have insufficient experience to run the club. Kim Na-eun (Sophomore, Department of Korean Literature), the vice-president of the club Alimi said, “Originally, freshmen Alimi have a probation period for one year and become formal Alimi. This year, however, Alimi recruited freshmen Alimi in the second semester, so the probation period is reduced by half. So, I am worried about whether new Alimis can learn in a short period. Also, if COVID-19 becomes serious again, it will make the training even harder.”

The Effort and the Possible Next Steps of SKKU

FG prepared to have online missions in the first semester, and they had a Team Building event during the summer vacation. In this event, freshmen had a campus tour and built friendships with other LC members under the leadership of FG. During the program, they met other LC members on the other campuses through Webex. Iruri, the 52nd student council, uploaded a promotion video on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram accounts to introduce school clubs for freshmen. Also, they offered goods for freshmen who enrolled in the club through SKKLUB, a website that introduces school clubs. Besides this, Iruri produced diverse content through its YouTube channel. There are videos such as I’ll just Enter, which introduces majors from the Natural Sciences Campus, and The Wise Life of Yuljeon, talking about the seniors’ experiences with 12 topics that freshmen would be curious about. Furthermore , the SKKU Championship League 2020 was held as a substitute for the festival. It was a league of the computer game, League of Legends (LOL), and the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) Online 4 among Kingos. It was broadcast through the YouTube channel. For the LOL league, the LOL casters, Sung Seong-hun and Lee Hyun-woo were engaged as casters and for the FIFA Online 4 league, Sung Seong-hun, and the president of the student council commentated. Other universities also created online content to interact with freshmen. For instance, Chung-ang Sa rang, a student ambassador of Chung-ang University did an online campus tour by YouTube streaming and had a major mentoring class using Zoom. SKKU also uploaded similar content like them, such as the student president of the Humanities and Social Sciences Campus visiting the Natural Sciences Campus and tour, but it would be better to make more content that can communicate with freshmen lives. SKKU tried hard to communicate with online content across time, but there is no direct chance for freshmen to form relationships. The Department of Global Convergence progressed the Ba-reun global convergence guide, an online friendship program for major freshmen and seniors. They grouped together four people and did online missions like having group chatrooms at least once a week and taking selfies in the same poses. Like this program, it would be better to have a Family Institution of the Business major online and to make freshmen meet each other either directly or indirectly through online programs at the school-wide level.

A Team Building Event of FG (Freshman Guide Facebook)
SKKU Championship League 2020 (Iruri YouTube)

Freshmen who dreamed of a new university life will be very sad that they could not have their expected university life. Hopefully, online programs can soothe away freshmen Kingo’s sadness a little bit. My hope for the days to come; the day that freshmen in 2020 adjust to SKKU well and tell how freshmen life in 2020 was to freshmen in 2021!

이수경  75061704@g.skku.edu

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