President Obama cheered students
U.S. President Barack Obama visited Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (HUFS) to deliver a special lecture on `a world without nuclear weapons’ for an audience of more than 1,500 including students and staff.
His strong commitment to world peace, effectively reflected in the context of Korea, would have moved young Korean students, encouraging them to take a determined step toward the global stage. Obama’s visit to the university surely marked the greatest event to be celebrated in the history of the university, along with the profound message he delivered in his lecture.
Many people asked the same question: Why was HUFS chosen? The answer can be easily found through a reading of President Obama's speech. He highly evaluated HUFS as ``the school with one of the world's finest foreign language programs, having produced leaders, public servants, diplomats, and business people, who've helped propel the modern economic miracle...that is a truly Global Korea." I do not believe it was simply political rhetoric.
Most importantly, President Obama's visit clearly reflects its status in the nation as the best foreign language education institution - covering 45 foreign languages, while simultaneously showing that HUFS' efforts in internationalization and global exchange programs have been well recognized in the global community.
HUFS is running various programs that foster global mindsets for students; 7+1 Visiting Student Program, joint master’s program for the UN’s University for Peace (UPEACE), overseas internship programs at KOTRA (Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency), and Korean embassies overseas. The numbers of inbound and outbound students are well balanced with more than 1,000 students studying in campuses which provide the best quality amenities and space for study including the Minerva Complex, the underground multi-functional facility of the university, where visitors can find international conference rooms, club rooms, and a fitness center. The complex has the Minerva Auditorium equipped with the best quality facility where President Obama delivered his historic lecture. If we had not been able to complete the facility extension work in time, Obama’s historic lesson might not have been possible.
Through President Obama's visit, HUFS, will be firmly recognized as the best global university in Korea, while being engraved in people's minds as one of the most prestigious Korean universities with world class competitiveness. I expect HUFS' reputation to be further heightened, and the university, students, and graduates will be more highly evaluated.
Since its founding in 1954, the university has played a significant role in reconstructing Korea after the Korean War by producing numerous CEO's and outstanding leaders, competitive enough to stride in the global stage.
Now it is teaching 45 languages, including African and Middle Eastern ones, standing as the top global university in Korea. Combined with studies in the humanities, law, social sciences, business, and computer science, students naturally grow as international leaders, equipped with both professional knowledge and language proficiency.
HUFS is accelerating its movement in recent years in order to move forward to a world-class university. With its emphasis on a global mindset, it has made exchange agreements with 436 universities and institutions in 79 countries. Among 640 faculty members, international professors take up 30 percent of the total. Truly, what the university seeks is not only competition with the local universities, but the whole world.
Perhaps these facts might be appealing to President Obama, who always puts importance on the education. Statistics show superior merits of the university as well: first in Asia in terms of the ratio of outbound exchange students, first in Korea in terms of internationalization indicators (JoongAng Ilbo University Ranking). Still, the number of inbound and outbound students is rising every year, and the third campus will soon be built in Songdo international business district, which is expected to serve as a hub for global education and research.
Obama's visit to the university will provide us with momentum in enhancing internationalization, while at the same time continuing to strengthen its internal systems. We will make greater efforts to produce global leaders equipped with excellent foreign language competency, special knowledge in their areas of study, and a deep understanding of and sensitivity toward other cultures. HUFS will do its best to upgrade the university, thereby heightening the satisfaction of students, alumni, and staff members. In seeking a critical chance to soar beyond Korea to the world, I hope all the members of the alumni will support the university with pride and affection.
All the people from HUFS are very proud of the university which has made fundamental contributions towards the Korean economy and education development. Just as the slogan of the university indicates, “Come to HUFS, Meet the World”, it seems clear that its influence over the global education community will continue to grow and inspire thousands of young students ever year.
The writer is the president of the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.