A representative from an European embassy and students are engaged in a conversation during the ``Studay & Research in Europe 2008’’ at the Seoul National University EU Center, Thursday. / Korea Times
By Kim Se-jeong
Vladimira Stancheuska, 24, from Bulgaria, came to Korea under the Korean government's scholarship to study international commerce at Seoul National University (SNU).
She was one of a few hundred students who came to ``Study and Research in Europe,'' an education fair held last week at the SNU campus with the hope that she'd find an opportunity to study at a European institute when she finishes here. She browsed exhibitors from 10 different European foreign missions in Korea with brochures and information about higher education in Europe. She said it was useful to see what European countries can offer students, something that hardly seems to happen in Korea.
The four-hour-long session was mainly about introducing European higher education and giving out information on scholarships and academic programs that are open to Korean students.
``The best European universities are working together and offer 105 different programs. Unfortunately, this program is absolutely unknown in South Korea. That's a pity, because these programs offer a lot of scholarships for Asian students,'' Olv Schroeer, a professor at Ewha Womans University who initially thought up the fair, told The Korea Times. ``A lot of students and scholars from India, China, Japan and other Asian countries take advantage of this opportunity.''
Erasmus Mundus is one academic project that allows a student to study at different institutes continuing the same field of study. It is open for those who pursue a masters degree in the EU with the provision of a scholarship. Currently, 6,000 students outside the EU are participating in the program. Of them, 30 are Koreans.
Europe is a well known and one of the most-visited destinations for Korean tourists, especially young college students. Surprisingly, however, the number of students who get on a plane to live and study there is very small. Why? Lack of knowledge, by far, is blamed for it. First of all students aren't told about classes being taught in English.
``A lot of Korean students are afraid, to study in Germany, France, Spain, the Netherlands and Norway and so on, because they think one has to learn a lot of European languages,'' Schroeer said. But ``we inform students that the programs are taught in English.''
Every single country seemed to offer classes taught in English. For example, in the Netherlands, nearly 1,400 classes are taught in English. Plus, students will have a chance to learn a third language. Korea's obsession with American education is also attributed to the small figure of students studying in Europe. Statistics show Korean students prefer the United States to others when choosing a destination to study abroad.
As of last April, the United States ranked the top accounting for 28.8 percent of overseas Korean students, according to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. Then other English speaking countries follow: Britain with 8 percent, Australia with 7.8 percent, Canada with 5 percent, New Zealand with 4.7 percent and the Philippines with 0.9 percent. It also has to do with post-graduate opportunities. In Korea, degrees from the United States get better recognition in both academia and job markets. It's quite common at a workplace or a university to see workers and faculty members with U.S. diplomas make up the majority of staff with foreign credentials.
Moon Woo-sik, a director for SNU's Center for EU Studies, said the quality of education in Europe is just as good as the United Sates, even better in some fields of study. He said the region deserves more attention. ``It is under represented,'' Moon said, especially in the field of education. Having studied in France himself, the director said the region has richness, diversity and opportunities that Korean students can benefit from. Also the EU as a whole now is emerging as an economic power.
Moon hoped the fair ― being the first to take place at the first EU center opened in Korea ― will help Korean people discover the potential of Europe as a destination for education.
Diplomats who participated in the fair were eager to be able to speak about their countries and educational opportunities, which would have been impossible if they were to put together a similar event on their own.
The fair will become an annual event. For more information visit the Web site: www.study-in-europe.kr