Exchange student relays experiences

For some students at Waynesburg University, getting home isn’t as easy as a train ride, a car ride or even a quick plane ride. Students like Seoyoung Kim, an exchange student from South Korea, have to travel across an entire ocean to a different country just to get home.

Kim is currently back in South Korea, but she studied at Waynesburg last fall for a semester through the university’s exchange program. She said she wanted to participate in an exchange program because it was a good opportunity for her.

“I love traveling, adventures and new friends. There was no reason not to be be an exchange student,” Kim said.

Another student from Kim’s school, Ewha Women’s University in Seoul, South Korea’s capital, also participated in Waynesburg’s exchange program this past fall. They both worked with admissions counselor Robert Bonhart, to make sure they could participate in the program.

“I basically am the liaison between Waynesburg and bringing the students in and getting them admitted and the different exchange coordinators from the other schools,” Bonhart said.

In order to be a part of the program, Binhart said they needed to complete an admissions application and send the university their transcripts like any other student. However, they also had to score at least an 80% on an English proficiency test and obtain a VISA.

“At Waynesburg all of our classes are taught in English, so students have to be able to understand it,” he said.

Aside from Ewha Women’s University, Bonhart said Waynesburg also has an exchange agreement with schools in Northern Ireland.

“Every semester, the university in South Korea typically will send us two students, sometimes it’s only one. They stay for a semester in duration,” he said. “Every other year, the schools in Northern Ireland will send us one student. We don’t get Northern Ireland students every year, but probably one every two to four years.”

Despite having two exchange students from South Korea last semester, there were no exchange students this spring semester and no Northern Ireland exchange students at all this year.

Bonhart said, however, that there will be two students from South Korea coming this upcoming fall semester.

Even though Waynesburg doesn’t get a lot of exchange students each semester, Bonhart said it is important for Waynesburg to continue participating in an exchange program.

“We are not the most diverse campus. So, I think that anything we can do to introduce our students to new cultures and new ways of thinking and new trains of thought is a benefit,” Bonhart said. “It does open eyes to the fact that not everything is like it is here.”

Having an exchange program not only benefits the exchange students on our campus, but other students as well. Bonhart said the whole experience makes us a little more “self aware.” For  Kim, it was an experience to encounter a different culture.

“I felt some cultural differences in the daily life,” Kim said. “First, in Korea, we take off our shoes in the house… Second, most dormitories in Korea have strict rules about getting boys in the dormitory. They can stay only in designated areas. In Waynesburg, I saw boys a lot in the dorms, [but] I got used to it over time.”

Even though the culture in America differed from Kim’s, she still said she loved her “life in Waynesburg.”

To expand the exchange program at Waynesburg and hopefully provide more exchange students an experience like Kim’s, Bonhart said the university as a whole and the administration must handle that matter.

“I think it’s a matter of the university as a whole and administration making the decision that we want to pursue [developing the exchange program],” Bonhart said. “Because that’s another thing, you don’t want to overload it, but there is always room for more places [and] more students.”

He said what the university really needs to do is spread the awareness of Waynesburg and get suggestions from students of countries they would like to partner with.

“I think it’s [important] getting that word out there that we are interested in partnering, and also identifying countries that we are interested in partnering with,” Bonhart said.