Ever curious on what actually goes down behind the Office of International Affairs? Or who answers your notorious questions before or after arriving to Korea? Well today your life will change…forever. I’ve interview Joseph Song who works as an International Exchange Student Adviser for the OIA.
Can you please introduce yourself?
My name is Joseph Song and I’m 22 years old (international age). I’ve actually been in Korea for about two years. I was originally an exchange student for a year until I started working in the Office of International Affairs.
What’s your favorite food in Korea?
Kimchi Jjigae (김치 찌개)! I really love soup based food.
What do you usually do on your free time?
I usually hang out with the GLAMs. We grab food together, sing our hearts out at 노래방 (karaoke), and sometimes go to the PC bang. But, what I really enjoy doing during my free time is taking photos.
Down below is a slideshow of some amazing photos Joseph took around campus
Where’s your favorite place to go around Seoul?
I’m not joking when I say this but I actually like hanging out at Heukseok! It has everything I could possible ask for. There’s amazing food places, its on campus, has unique cafes, and most importantly it’s near the Han River. Another place is SkyPark, I love this area because it’s not crowded and is really beautiful.
What exactly do you do at the Office of International Affairs?
I help manage the exchange students by answering any questions they might have. Some of my daily tasks requires me to answer emails. The email address is the inbound one that many students from all over the world send their questions to. Usually some of the questions I receive are from incoming students, current, and previous students who may need some sort of document. I also send out information about current events around the campus that students may be interested in. A lot of the announcements are in Korean, so there are times where I would have to translate and see which one would spark an interest for our students. Not only do I keep in contact with students, but also with coordinators worldwide. Our office does mostly administrative work, but I also feel that we do a lot of marketing to other universities as well.
How did you first hear about this job?
I was actually an exchange student for Fall 2015 for a year. My first semester I got offered the Global A Scholarship, but I declined since I wanted to have some time to myself. In my second semester I heard about the opportunity again, so I signed up immediately. Initially, I applied for the Global Lounge because I thought it would be fun to engage in an English conversation with Korean students, but I ended getting into the Office of international Affairs. Although it wasn’t my first choice, It was definitely a different experience. I’ve got the chance to know the coordinators behind the desks and before I knew it the OIA offered me a position as an adviser.
How has your services been beneficial for exchange students?
I see myself as the first line. The first person in contact that they have. So even, before coming to CAU they would talk to me about what to expect and what to get ready for. I believe this office and myself do an excellent job in helping students adapt to the culture here by introducing them to the different aspects of Korea. One of the main thing we do well is preparation. The OIA displays various guidelines for our students such as advising them on what to bring, what to expect, how to get their visa, where to purchase their dormitory fee and insurance, and so on.
What’s the most precious memory you’ve experienced working in the OIA?
The most precious memory was the farewell ceremony. Since being in Korea, I’ve experienced three farewell ceremonies at CAU. The previous two were when I was an exchange student myself and the last one was when I was an advisor. It felt somewhat different. Instead of my friends going away, it was the students that I took care of leaving. Of course, it felt a bit more personal than the first two. I’ve gotten close to majority of the students and the GLAMs. So, you could only imagine what an an emotional mess everyone was. Tears were falling down students faces nonstop! Even though it was a sad scene, I somewhat felt accomplished. I was happy that all the exchange students had an unforgettable experience studying abroad at CAU.
Did you face any difficulties?
I feel like I haven’t dealt with any difficulties working in the OIA. If anything, a lot of the staff and teachers were quick to help. The only thing that struck as difficult was adjusting to how busy it gets around the office, especially during the beginning of the semester. We would do airport pickups, dorm check ins, orientations back to back, morning to night. And right after that we would go straight to interviewing potential Global A students and adjusting their schedules. It was pretty hectic, the office would be packed for days with many exchange students asking all sorts of questions. Because the OIA’s staff have a very globalized mindset, as a new adviser, helping students was quite difficult. Because all of the students come from different backgrounds, my culture, the Korean culture, and their culture isn’t the same. So, I had to take some time to understand everyone different cultures, so I could be fit and well prepared to answer any question they had.
Can anyone sign up for this positions?
Yes! Anyone who’s a native english speaker can sign up. Usually the OIA looks for students who put a lot of effort and time into their work. So, as long as you show determination, and willingness to help other students or coordinators than you are qualified.
Why did you decide to work for the OIA? And what are your thoughts so far about the OIA?
I decided to work at OIA because I wanted to see my own growth as a person in the professional field. It was very remarkable and empowering moment for me to be in this type of setting and see everything that goes down behind the scenes. My experience as an exchange student was one of the best time I had in my college career. I wanted everyone who came to CAU to have the same experience as I did and I felt like the best place for me to make an impact on other exchange student’s lives was here…at the Office of International Affairs.
How long are you allowed to work for this position?
I’m not sure if there’s a max for it . But for me, I started off originally with one semester, but as time progressed and I become closer with the GLAMs… they’ve convinced me to stay for another semester. I really enjoyed my first semester working in the OIA, I loved it. For some odd reason, it didn’t really feel like working the first semester. I mean I was aware that I was an intern and I did do a lot of work, but in all honesty…I actually had fun.
In the past, I worked at my university’s office in Hawaii, it was very draining and extremely boring. You just sit in a cubicle all day, minding your own business. But here in the OIA it’s felt like an open community. The coordinators were very welcoming to the students. So it felt way more cozy here. I enjoyed making relationships with the exchange students, GLAMs, and the coordinators.
How has working in the OIA helped you in the long run?
In the long run, working the OIA has opened up new doors for me. I never thought of this before, but now I can actually visualize myself becoming a coordinator setting up international relationship with universities or institutions. I believe it all started when I was an exchange student. The whole experience was so memorable for me, that it inspired me to want to provide this opportunity for other students. I really want everyone to have the type of experience I did abroad. Obviously, I am aware that not everyone is going to experience the same thing, but being able to go to a different country, go beyond your comfort zone, and explore new things from a new perspective is definitely something I want to offer to all students.
Would you recommend this position to exchange students and why?
Of course! I would really recommend this position to all exchange students. You do a wide range of work at the OIA. So far I’ve done an orientation, campus tours, meet with VIPs from all over the world, became a manager to the Global A students, and lastly helped with administrative work of 300+ students. It sounds like a lot of work, but it’s actually useful to have this type of experience where you meet with people, do presentations, and experience office work. I’m 100% sure if you get a chance to work at the Office of International Affairs you will learn a lot.
Have you experienced anything that took you by surprised working with students at the OIA?
I can honestly say from the bottom of my heart that I love the students here. It’s amazing just how determined they are to learn Korean. Surprisingly there’s actually a handful of students who are really good in Korean, but majority of students who come to Korea barely know the language. However, by the end of the semester I can ask them a random question in Korean and they will be able to answer it. So, it’s very awarding to see what kind of effect the exchange program has on our students and how they are stepping out of their comfort zone and growing as individuals.
Whenever you have questions swing by the OIA, and talked to the advisor and coordinators they are happy and willing to answer any of your questions!