New organization's goal is to connect students, faculty from Korea

Coming to Central Michigan University from a country where communication between students and professors is essential, Donghwan Kim started the Korean Scholars and Students Association to connect Korean faculty and students.

“The relationship between students and faculty is very important in Korea. We feel kind of lonely if we don’t have any kind of relationship between us and the faculty,” said the South Korea senior.

The organization was formed in the fall, but met for the first this semester. There are 15 Korean students enrolled on campus, but KSSA has about 20 members, comprised almost equally of students and faculty members.

Kim said in Korea, everyone within the same department knows each other. Though he does not see major cultural differences between Korea and the United States, KSSA vice president Sangyang Yim said Korea is more of a collectivistic society, whereas U.S. society is individualistic.

One purpose of the organization is to help new Korean students adjust to American society and the academic system, Kim said. Some of this advice can come from the Korean faculty in the organization who have been in the U.S. for a while and have dealt with adjusting and different issues Korean students might encounter, he said.

“Faculty can (also) get to know what Korean students need to be successful at CMU,” he said.

Some of the issues Korean students face are ones that CMU’s academic advisers might not be familiar with, Kim said.

“CMU academic advisers are mostly U.S. citizens so they don’t know the problems of visas, but faculty know because they’ve already been in that situation so they can give us advice,” he said.

Kim said adjusting to the academic system and dealing with a language barrier can be challenging.

The association’s general meetings are for students only, but faculty might invite students to additional meetings. Faculty and students in KSSA are planning to two to three times a semester.

“We want to be able to have a system between students and scholars for advising,” Kim said.

KSSA treasurer Yoonjin Park said Korean students can also learn a lot from each other.

The organization is open to any students interested in Korean culture. Participation also could be informative for U.S. students who are interested in studying in Korea, Yim said.

“We want to let other students at CMU know our Korean culture,” Yim said.

The group is interested in helping people who want to learn Korean or improve their Korean language skills.

“For this year, our ultimate goal is to make our organization more fun and systematic for students who will be involved next semester,” Kim said.

There are several other cultural and international organizations at CMU, including the Chinese Students and Scholars Association, which works to create a network between Chinese students and faculty. Kim said KSSA and CSSA are similar, even though the Korean population at CMU is much smaller than the Chinese population.

KSSA will share information about Korean culture at the International EXPO hosted by the International Student Organization from 4 to 8 p.m. on April 16 in Finch Fieldhouse.