Swaying arm in arm to the cheerleading music during the Annual Ko-Yon Games; introducing oneself via the Field Manual (FM); singing the Makgeoli Paean while drinking makgeoli from a bowl; these are just a few snippets of Korea University (KU) culture that are off-bounds for select groups of students, including transfer students. Their attempts to integrate themselves into the fabric of KU culture tend to end in failure, for only a few transfer students are daring enough to attend Freshmen Orientations or Cheering Orientations, and for good reason. They are often alone, alienated and seen as nuisances rather than welcome additions. Korea Univeristy Transfer Student Committee (KUTSC) helps such forgotten transfer students get a whiff of the KU life that was so brutally torn from their grasps.
▲ PHOTOGRAPHED BY LEE HYUN JI. Lee Dong Gwon, KUTSC Representative
KUTSC assists transfer students in KU from both KU Sejong Campus and other universities, who struggle with an entirely new culture, academic system, and campus. In September 2014, KUTSC was established as a special committee under KU Student Association (KUSA) in order to “improve institutional and cultural difficulties and to help students who transferred to KU Seoul Campus from other campuses adapt.” With ten members currently active, KUTSC strives to serve the purpose. Lee Dong Gwon (’14, Physics), the president of KUTSC, elaborated, “While freshmen who started out in KU Seoul Campus have seniors who offer advice on how to lead their daily lives, transfer students often do not. KUTSC is there to help them.”
New School, New Difficulties
Even before their excitement at being accepted into KU Seoul Campus wears off, transfer students are beset by new difficulties. Not only do transfer students suffer academically because of unfamiliar lectures and professors, but other hardships also await them. For example, transfer students have to acclimate themselves to the new course registration system as well as the drop system, or the lack thereof. Additionally, they experience inconveniences with getting credits they earned in previous universities recognized at the new campus. Most devastatingly for some, transfer students cannot learn KU’s distinct culture by themselves. Even if they somehow manage to become a part of KU, anonymous online communities such as Everytime and Koreapas leave them with searing scars caused by malicious comments.
“In terms of information received, transfer students are at a disadvantage compared to freshmen,” Lee bemoaned. According to Lee, transfer students are often not provided integral pieces of information such as professors’ lecture styles and department events, which most KU students take for granted. Another problem they encounter is credit authorization. “Transfer students spend their freshman and sophomore years at previous colleges. The academic credits earned at that time might not be approved until graduation, thus preventing them from meeting their graduation requirements,” Lee said, addressing the problem.
KUTSC Takes Action
When trying to solve a problem, it is first necessary to identify said problem. In order to find out exactly which struggles transfer students face and to coordinate plans for action based on such discoveries, KUTSC holds weekly meetings. External efforts are made alongside internal ones. Once a semester, KUTSC holds offline survey booths at Hana Square and Central Plaza, and online surveys are also conducted. By holding survey booths, the club simultaneously accomplishes the tasks of informing students of its presence and deciding on which problems to prioritize.
With the information thus gathered, KUTSC plans and carries out various regular and irregular activities for transfer students. For example, KUTSC members attend various department events and other major KU events such as Ipselenti “Jiya Hamsung” and the Annual Ko-Yon Games with the alienated transfer students. “Although transfer students who just came to KU want to participate in such events, the department’s juniors and seniors, who have already spent their last couple of years showing up at said events, usually do not. Since transfer students find it difficult to make friends just as freshmen do, KUTSC can help in this respect,” Lee explained.
Although KUTSC has hosted various event s and Trans fer Student Orientations (TSO), during which transfer students learn about KU’s culture like freshmen, for three years now, their success has never been guaranteed. First, KUTSC’s position as a champion for the minority has come back to haunt them more than once. “The Office of Student Affairs was very perfunctory when dealing with us because we are not a major part of KU,” Lee confessed. Besides the woes that come with being a minority, another difficulty that befalls KUTSC is that transfer students have extremely varied backgrounds. As Lee put it, transfer students have wildly diverging majors, ages, and universities of origin, which makes it hard for KUTSC members to tend to every one of the transfer students’ needs.
KUTSC, An Open League
Although its name implies that KUTSC is only open to transfer students, it is not. In fact, participation of non-transfer students is more important than ever. “When we hold events in KUTSC’s name, non-transfer students often ask whether they can participate,” Lee said. He stressed that transfer students and non-transfer students alike are welcome to participate in KUTSC events. He also hoped that more non-transfer students would join TSO, since even transfer students who are seniors are indistinguishable from KU freshmen. Non-transfer juniors or seniors could contribute greatly to TSO with their extensive experience in KU.
Anyone thrown into a new environment, where everyone else is acquainted with one another because they have known each other for years, would be tormented by the same setbacks that plague transfer students. The most important action non-transfer students can take in service of transfer students is reflecting on their own prejudices and preconceptions. Whether consciously or unconsciously, many are biased against transfer or campus change policy, unaware of how transfer students struggle all day just to gain access to what they take for granted. KUTSC, by making KU students reflect on their prejudices, consoles transfer students by reminding them that they are not alone.