By Jiyoung Shin
It has been 3 years since I started my university life in Holland after graduating from high school. Thinking that I haven’t had any opportunities to experience Korean universities, I applied for a Korean university for my student exchange program. I would like to talk about a few things I realized in comparison to Holland while spending the 2012 Fall semester as a university student in Korea.
First of all, there was a tremendous difference on tuition fees. In Holland, the government sets the statutory tuition fee each year and therefore there is a fixed amount that Dutch universities can request to students. Although non-EU students have to pay far more, the tuition fee for Dutch and EU students has been set at € 1771 (approximately 2,500,000 won) this year. 10 month installments are also possible. The website of the Korean university that I studied this semester as an exchange student states that the tuition fee is 3,400,000 won per semester. This means that the Korean students are paying the tuition fee that is 2.7 times higher than that of Dutch students.
In Holland, a considerate number of students juggle their studies with work just like it is in Korea. Although Dutch people have to pay maximum 52% of their income as tax, they got a nice welfare system. The Dutch students are able to use the public transportation for free during the week days and receive monthly subsidies from the government. So there are many students who make living expenses and rent fees without getting help from their parents.
The class also differs between two countries. Mostly, the students in Holland have smaller options for selecting their own courses since the required courses per term usually fixed. Only seeing at the number of available courses make the Korean students appear to have a broader option for selecting their own courses. But I realized throughout the course registration period that it is not so good as it looks. One second was enough. In case of failure to a fast-click, you have to bear the pain of sitting in an unwanted course for 4 months.
The difference also exists in the class style. At my university, Erasmus University Rotterdam, the class per one course is usually divided into the lecture and tutorial. In the lecture, the professor explains the academic concepts and conveys relevant knowledge to the entire students. On the other hand, the tutorial is a small class of 15 to 20 students where the discussion and presentation based on the lecture take the central role. Most of students consider tutorials rather boring compared to lectures. Therefore, the professors spend endless pains on making lectures more interesting and interactive.
In Korea, however, I got an impression that the class style is more standardized. The student participation has been increased by the discussion and presentation. But the structure of the class did not depart from the standardized lecture-presentation-discussion pattern. In particular, the courses taught in English brought upon more frustrations. The class proceeded without any questions nor answers because of the uncomfortableness in English. Although English courses are vital for the internationalization of the university, it made me question whether they are really necessary even when the stress is increased and communication is prevented.
Having watched the Korean students, I can confidently say that they are unbeatable in terms of the diligence. In the courses taught in Korean, which has no language barrier, I often saw students who had already read others’ presentation paper at home and prepared questions in advance. When I told this story to other foreign exchange students living in the same dormitory as me, they all gave their thumbs up for the thorough preparation of Korean students. But Korean students seemed extremely busy and tired, more than anyone else. Soaring tuition fees, stresses with foreign languages and worries on finding a job…. What they need now is a change in the university education instead of healing.