Mihyun Kim, Jin Suk Kim and Yejin Bae came to UTAS for twelve months on an exchange as part of their studies in Education. All three were keen to improve their English and make friends but found it wasn’t easy to make connections.
“I just thought that it would be easy to meet Australian friends. It was not so then I applied for this program,” Mihyun Kim said.
The Community Friends and Networks Program (CFNP) was a chance to meet locals and get to know Hobart and southern Tasmania through the eyes of someone who lives here. The CFNP began at UTAS in October 2009 in the Support and Equity Unit and aims to link ‘new to town’ students into the wider community with people who share combined interest and mutual ideas.
Students are matched up with local people, as individuals, couples or families, who invite them into their lives and introduce them to their community. The idea is that locals can incorporate the student into activities they already do in their lives. The three girls joined in November and between them were matched up with two Tasmanian couples; the groups got on really well.
“Now I can go to the city or nearby like Salamanca and I see people I know so I can go and have a coffee with them,” Jin Suk Kim said. “Through the program I have met a lot of people and made a lot of friends.”
Common activities included bushwalks and food, as the girls and the couples took turns to prepare meals for each other. “We cooked Korean noodles and we tried lots of different Australian food. It was really nice and we enjoyed it all. We had a different kind of pumpkin soup – over here it is savoury but back home it is sweet.” Jin Suk Kim said.
CFNP Co-coordinator Laura Della-Pasqua said one of the girls mentioned that one of the most exciting moments was when they were able to share humour. “She realised then ‘oh we are having a joke- we really are friends!”
The girls want to become teachers of English. Mihyun says she is now very excited about teaching English in Korea and will encourage her students to learn for the opportunities of communication as well as to pass exams. They believe learning the language in Korea is quite different to learning in Australia.
“In western culture there are a lot of students who come over from Asia but in Asia, students from western areas like America and Australia are rare. So unless (Korean students) go abroad they don’t know. Through our experiences we can tell them and encourage them to experience more things. My Korean English teacher had told me more things about when she was abroad and that made me motivated to come and see,” Jin said.
CFNP Co- coordinator Danielle Campbell said the program’s success relies on community awareness and local volunteers.
“Some people say to us that they don’t have the time to join the program because they feel as if they would have to be out doing things or going to specific events showing the students around, and that’s not the case at all,” Danielle said. “The aim is to spend time together, swap stories about life and experiences such as cooking, experiences you are having anyway but allow someone else to join in, and by doing so helping to network the students into the local community.”
Due to the success of the program and enthusiasm of students to join, the program is now looking for more volunteers. If you are a student or staff member at UTAS or a member of the Tasmanian community generally and remember what it is like to make a life in a new place then CFNP is keen to hear from you.
The program also runs interesting events to encourage students to meet members of the Tasmanian community and to also celebrate the diversity of UTAS student population. It offers another way in which locals can get involved.
Danielle Campbell, Laura Della-Pasqua, Yejin Bae, Jin Suk Kim and Mihyun Kim.