Friday, August 24, 2007

Orientation

Today concluded the second day of orientation. There are about 15 students in the orientation group, it includes any new international students; this includes transfers and freshmen as well as exchange students like me. So far we've just gone over guidelines and talked about culture shock, taken campus tours, etc. Everybody else had to take English and Korean language placement tests, but the exchange students don't have to as we're only here one semester. Handong is pretty nice. It's not the same as LeTourneau in some ways- LETU is kind of neurotic about landscaping and maintenance- everything is always really nice(except for Tyler hall bathrooms). Handong is the opposite- they don't maintain and clean their buildings as fanatically as LETU does. The dorm that I'm in is pretty darn messy. Apparently the school doesn't require students to clean the rooms before they leave, nor do they clean them before new students move in. That was kind of a shock the first night. The rooms are small, especially for 4 people each! Their grounds crew might be on vacation for the summer, as the grass is all overgrown and unkempt. However, this is not yet the school year- maybe they clean up a lot at the beginning of the semester.

Another odd thing- I was expecting more English speaking- I assumed that since there was the "30% of your classes must be in English", graduation requirement, most students would be proficient in English. Not true. Broken English passes as good enough here just because they don't have the 'real thing' to practice with. The best English language education they can get here isn't very good just because there aren't enough native English speakers to polish off their skills. It's the same as foreign languages in America- in my high school everyone had to take 2 Spanish classes to graduate. Did any of us speak Spanish? Not a chance- not even comprehension. There were no Spanish speakers at my high school, just white people that 'spoke' Spanish.

Also, I've been told that the school's international program is kind of segregated from the school, just as a de facto thing. Because nobody speaks English well, none of the student organizations, clubs, etc will work for international students. I've been told that in general, the international students just keep to themselves and vice versa with the Koreans. There are certainly efforts made- there is a whole section of student government dedicated to international everything, an international student council, international cafe, and a whole international dorm building. The fact of the matter is that the school can't force the whole 7900 Korean students to give a hoot about the 100 international students. Koreans will befriend international students, but we were warned today that sometimes they will try to be your friend just for the purpose of practicing English.

Handong is definately a Christian school, but according to some of the gossip I've heard, they have trouble with discipline. Students will go off-campus on the weekend and get wasted. Apparently they don't require a statement of faith from their students, as I'm told thats some students are openly Muslim and tend to make trouble in Bible class. My down-to-earth Canadian-born Korean tour guide estimated that 30% of the students are actually practicing, honest Christians. That doesn't mean that 70% of the students are troublemakers- most students are fine. It seems to me that the school has many rules but does not stand by them. Smoking is allowed only in designated spaces, but the school doesn't enforce this rule and students smoke wherever they please. I've heard of students making all sorts of trouble, an apparently the school doesn't expel them- then the troublemakers breed more troublemakers, and the problems appears to have snowballed. There are no slackers, though- all students take 18-23 credits every semester, all were in the top 5% of their class, and all got over a 1400 of 1600 on the SAT.
Schools are generally bigger here, HGU is considered small at 8000. I think that since the schools are bigger, they're fewer between, so HGU is sort of the only school in the area and students will come here just because it's a good school and not because, or even in spite of, it being a Christian school.

That sounds like a list of bad things, but really when someone is given an expectation of sweetness and light, all they will notice are the flaws. HGU really is putting in a huge effort to earn that middle 'G' for global. HGU is a good school, and I'm glad to be here. I'm sure my opinions will be revised and changed as the school year goes on.

P.S. Even halfway across the world, cafeteria food hasn't changed. It doesn't help when you don't know what it is that they're serving, either!

I'm not taking pictures because my AA charger doesn't take 220V, I need to find someone with an AA charger so I can recharge my camera batteries before they're actually out. Here's a picture of the dorm room(they're all the same).

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