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Incorporation of Community Psychology Principles at Yonsei Le

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Incorporation of Community Psychology Principles at Yonsei Language Exchange

Jae-ho Kim

Yonsei University

Fall, 2013

Incorporation of Community Psychology Principles at Yonsei Language Exchange

Yonsei Language Exchange is an agency associated with the cultural exchange program offered by The Office of International Affairs at Yonsei University and the Global Lounge Student Committee known as Yonsei Global (“Language Exchange,” 2012). Their headquarters are located in the Global Lounge at the Sinchon Campus of Yonsei University. It was founded exactly one decade ago in 2003 by Lee Seung Chan. The program initially received participants in multiples of 10. However, the organization has now blossomed into a popular program attracting an average of 700 to 800 applicants per semester. The current president of the agency is Hee Yeun, a Yonsei University student. She has maintained her position for four and half semesters, which is equivalent to about two and a half years. President Hee Yeun works alongside with two other co-workers. Although the program consists of a small team, there is a lot of responsibility and work that goes along with the success of the agency. Yonsei Language Exchange starts at the beginning of every semester. However, preparation begins weeks in advance. The LE president and her two co-workers begin sending out applications via email to accepted exchange students three weeks before the semester starts in order to have sufficient time for proper matching. After applications are received by the deadline, the process of sorting and matching begins. Applicants are matched according to certain pre-requisites and requirements. When the students have been properly matched, the information is sent out to all applicants. An orientation is hosted by the LE agency during the first week of the semester to inform the agency’s guidelines and purpose. It is stated that the goal of the program is to provide opportunities to both Yonsei students and exchange students to share each other’s culture and create new friendships. The students are free to plan the location and frequency of their outings according to their own schedule instead of following a fixed schedule given by the program. This allows for flexibility and reduces the pressure of forced meetings. After orientation, workload is reduced for LE employees from meeting daily to meeting bi-weekly or on a need-basis. Small events with prizes are planned during the middle of semester to provide more opportunities for applicants to meet their exchange buddies. Interaction, among Yonsei Language Exchange agency members, is very close compared to other agencies. This is because there are only 3 members within the agency. Meetings consist of informal discussion at settings such as café’s or lounges. Also, the president has served a very long term along with her 2 other co-workers so a friendly relationship has already developed among the staff of the agency.
Interaction between the agency members and the community members they serve is somewhat minimal. Only if problems arise between an applicant and his or her partner, communication via email will occur. The agency members rarely interact with the community members. Aside from settling conflicts, the president will occasionally check the status of applicant’s comments on the agency’s Facebook® page to be updated on some of the blossoming friendships that might arise. And the president directly hands out the prizes for special events held during the middle of the semester.
Interview & Evaluation

The organizational development model was chosen as the type of interview model for the Yonsei Exchange Language agency. The type of questions given from the organization development model seemed suitable for an agency like the Yonsei Language Exchange. This agency is not a grassroots organization and has existed almost a decade so it is very structured and belongs in an hierarchy under Yonsei Global. Because of this type of structure that Yonsei LE is in, I thought use of the organizational development model would be better suited to receive more accurate and greater amount of information.
Based on the information I gained from my interview, I believe the agency has successfully transformed from a small start-up organization into a renowned Language Exchange program. Universities from across the globe praise Yonsei’s Language Exchange program on successfully pairing many applicants with precision, events to promote friendship between exchange students and native students, and its ability to reach out to all exchanges students without bias. Tilburg University in the Netherlands is one such example that promotes exchange students at Yonsei to join the Language Exchange program claiming that its “aim is to help international students adjust to the new environment, as well as minimize feelings of loneliness or isolation that students might feel when they first arrive in a foreign country” (“Why Study At,”, 2013). The University of North Carolina Pembroke in the United States has a brochure of study abroad at Yonsei also stating “Yonsei organizes the Language Exchange Program to promote long-lasting friendships and interactions between exchange and regular Yonsei students” (“Study Abroad in,”, 2012). These positive comments about the Yonsei Language Exchange program along with my personal experience as a participant of the program confirms that the agency is doing well with its mission. I have been paired with an amazing Language Exchange buddy and feel very welcomed to Yonsei University. Because the agency is successful with its mission, I believe that it has adequately served its community, which are students but particularly exchange students at Yonsei. I gained from my interview and from personal experience in the program that the president and her co-workers strive to do everything in their power to successfully match every applicant as well as to handle conflicts that might arise during the semester (J. Kim, personal communication, October 10, 2013). The Yonsei Language Exchange listens to its community members for suggestions and improvements via email or Facebook instead of simply pretending to listen, which is what some agencies do unfortunately. The agency has many responsibilities in order to keep up with its reputation and it is even more remarkable to see that they have continued to maintain their target community population. The LE program has worked hard to reach out to its correct community members instead of straying off the path of their mission. There have been conflicts for the agency to expand or merge with another agency to increase their success but the LE program has maintained the focus to only target exchange students. During the interview, the president claims that there have been tempting moments to merge in order to reduce workload and possibly increase the agencies audience but she says that it was best for LE to target only exchanges students (J. Kim, personal communication, October 10, 2013). Yonsei’s Language Exchange program has been through some struggles in the past before it has reached its pinnacle of success but it is the agencies strengths that kept them from failing and retaining their positive reputation. Some of the agencies strengths include strong relationship among employees because of small team structure, efficient communication, and the agencies access to resources due to association with a larger organization, Yonsei Global. However, not every agency is perfect and so the Yonsei LE agency has weaknesses as well which include work overload at certain times because of inadequate employees and avoided conflicts because co-workers have too strong of a relationship with each other.
Community Psychology Principles

Individual Well-being

One of the principles of Community Psychology that is relevant to Yonsei Language Exchange is Individual/Family Wellness. Wellness is referred to as physical and psychological health, including personal well-being and attainment of personal goals (Dalton, Elias, Wandersman, 2007). Community psychologists have been able to indicate an individual’s level of wellness based on certain criteria such as symptoms of psychological distress and measures of positive qualities including resilience, social-emotional skills, personal well-being, and life satisfaction. (Dalton, et al. 2007). An individual’s wellness can be promoted in numerous ways according to the analysis and research of community psychologists (Cowen, 2000a). Some examples include preventive programs on mal-adaptive behavior, promotion of social-emotional competence and of health, and lastly intervention programs in non-clinical settings (Cowen, 2000b). According to these criteria, I believe that my knowledge, research, and participation in the Yonsei Language Exchange program provide evidence to support their promotion on individual wellness. The Yonsei Language Exchange agency promotes the value of individual well-being by providing a program that produces opportunities to maintain the psychological health of university exchange students. Such opportunities include building new relationships by meeting native, Yonsei students, understanding Korean culture, and sharing one’s own culture as well. Being in a foreign land alone without knowing anyone can cause stress, loneliness, and anxiety. Loneliness is a multifaceted phenomenon, often characterize by an unpleasant, painful, anxious yearning for another person or persons (Ponzetti, 1990). It exists within every age group; however, adolescents and young adults appear to be particularly vulnerable (Ponzetti). In fact, previous research indicates that loneliness is a common problem among college students (Ponzetti).
College students are affected by this common problem in detrimental ways that cn psychologically damage their self-concept and self-esteem. This lower sense of self includes negative evaluations of their own bodies, sexuality, health, appearance, behavior, and functioning (Ponzetti, 1990). Lonely students are also more introverted and feel as if their lives are directed by forces outside of their control often times confusing their own logic. From my own interview of the LE president, she reports that some participants of the program have admitted to having feelings of emptiness, hopelessness, alienation, and anxiety (J. Kim, personal communication, October 10, 2013). However, by providing opportunities for exchange students to create relationships with some of the native students, Yonsei Language Exchange has aided in eliminating such negative aspects of studying abroad alone. The success of the program is reflected in the positive reviews of foreign universities that have sent students to Yonsei in the past such as The University of Tilberg and The University of North Carolina Greensboro.
Sense of Community

The second principle of Community Psychology that is relevant to Yonsei Language Exchange actually complements the Individual wellness and it is Sense of Community. Sense of community is referred to as the perception of belongingness, interdependence, and mutual commitment that links individuals in a collective unity (Dalton, 2007). It is the foundation for community and social action as well as a resource for social support (Dalton). Building a sense of community for any community psychologist is meant to surpass the individualistic in order to concentrate on the interdependency and relationships. It balances the first community psychology principle relevant to Yonsei Language Exchange program because the quality of life for individual and community ultimately depend on each other.
The Yonsei Language Exchange agency promotes the value of Sense of Community by assisting new foreign, exchange students network and integrate into a completely new environment. The agency works very hard to successfully match an exchange student with a native, Yonsei student that has similar likes and dislikes. This possible friendship can open up new doors for exchange students to meet other students with similar likes and dislikes thus fostering a Sense of Community. Access to such an example of a social support group can aid in integrating with an exchange student’s foreign environment and increase a sense of belonging. And the agency continues to build upon an exchange student’s current relationship with his/her community by hosting events and activities.
The opportunity for exchange students to increase their social capital by bonding with a new community comes with many benefits. One of these benefits can be seen in Brown and Burdsal’s research which claims that a college student’s Sense of Community plays a very large role in their success. Their experimental observations indicate that graduating with a higher education degree is not an achievement done in isolation. But rather, it is a joint effort of among a community of scholars (Brown & Burdsal, 2012). Their results indicated that a positive sense of community strongly correlates with college student’s grade point average, individual well-being, and mental health. (Brown & Burdsal)
In order to improve or sustain the success of the Yonsei Language Exchange agency, I suggest my own program development plan known as Operation MB (Operation Merge-Buddies). The goal of the program is to provide opportunities for LE buddies to meet other groups within the LE program. One of the weaknesses that I noticed within the agency is limited interaction among already paired Language Exchange buddies. For the entire semester, one exchange student only interacts with their paired Yonsei student, which reduces possible chances for friendship and social capital. My inspiration for Operation MB came from personal experience in the LE program because I never interacted with other exchange students participating in the LE program. I will propose two activities as potential ideas to implement the goals of Operation MB.
My first proposal involves hosting a social activity such as showing a movie, providing board games, or planning a multicultural meal. The president can coordinate with her employees on the logistics of reserving the Global lounge, access to financial resources sponsored by the university, and sending out invitations via online communication. Hosting such a program offers LE buddies to meet other groups of LE buddies and increase their social capital.
My second proposal to increase interaction among already paired Language Exchange buddies would be setting up an event on a specific day of the week inviting paired LE buddies with something similar in common. For example, on the first Tuesday of October, Operation Merge-Buddies would invite LE pairs in which the exchange student is only European. Then on the Tuesday of the next month, LE pairs with only American exchange students would be invited and an event would be held for them to interact with one another. And this would change month to month. Surprisingly many exchange students are not aware that some students near their home university or even their own hometown are currently studying abroad with them. I am from Northern Virginia and it was not until by random chance that I met an exchange student that lives very close to my hometown. An event like the one mentioned previously would increase the chance of meeting new people with similarities and even home location proximity.
The effectiveness of the Evaluation Program can be measured through surveys. They can be handed out to those that participated in these events to gain feedback. Depending on the types of questions on the surveys, various data can be collected such as the programs effectiveness on increasing friendships among already paired LE buddies, opinions on improvements on the program, or whether the program is successful or not. Operation Merge-Buddies can help the agency identify its strengths and weaknesses through these surveys to aid in improving the agency overall.


Brown, S., & Burdsal, C. (2012). An exploration of sense of community and student success using the national survey of student engagement. The Journal of General Education, 61(4), 433-460. Retrieved from
Cowen, E.L. (2000a). Community psychology and routs to psychological wellness. In J. Rappaport & E. Seidman (Eds.), Handbook of community psychology (pp. 79-100). New York: Kluwer/Plenum
Cowen, E.L. (2000b). Prevention, wellness enhancement, Y2K and thereafter. Journal of Primary Prevention, 21(1), 15-19.
Dalton, J. H., Elias, M.J., & Wandersman, A. (2007). Community psychology: Linking individuals and communities. Belmont, Ca: Thomson Higher Education.
Language exchange (le). (2012, January). Retrieved from Ponzetti, J. J. J. (1990). Loneliness among college students. Family Relations, 39(3), 336-340. Retrieved from Study abroad in South Korea. (2012, October 04). Retrieved from Why Study At Yonsei?. (2013, August 15). Retrieved from

Appendix A Interview Transcript
How often do you work?
For the beginning, we work every day because we get application from the exchange students and the Korean students. Then we copy the information into Excel files and we match the student to each other and it takes 2-3 weeks. We spend that much time on the matching process and after the orientation and the matching outcomes, we don’t have any more regular time. We just check pictures that you post on Facebook and manage the students who didn’t get contacted with their partners. So we are very busy in the beginning but now we are not so busy. Today we give the best 3 teams that we pick up some gifts. We give them some present and that’s the end of our work. We check the pictures and we pick up how much they post the pictures on the Facebook. The prize giving is today and the second prize giving is maybe in December. So for now it’s just checking and managing.

So do you start work before the semester?
Yes, we prepare the reservation of the orientation place and some information about the notice on YSCEC and email. We have some 2-3 meetings before the semester. We meet and select when we want the orientation and what we want to include in the notice on YSCEC and mail. We choose the exact date and location and how we can get some application. So we prepare that before the semester. At the beginning of the first week, we send email and notice on YSCEC.

For the location on campus, do you work here (in Global Lounge) or in an office?
Yes here or in our home on our notebook.

What is your job as your title?
I am the president of the LE Program and I have 2 members in the LE department. So I give them work like copying the information of the excel file, matching the Korean and other exchange students, and maybe reservation to some office. I’m just totally managing and they have some separate roles.

What does the organization stand for? What’s your goal or important message that you want to accomplish?
To let the exchange students be more familiar with the Korean culture, forge some good friendship between exchange students and Korean students, and language exchange.

How is it to work here on a day to day basis? I guess it would be different like in the beginning and the end. In the beginning of the semester how is a typical day? You mentioned that it was very busy and you worked almost every day. So what would you do any day, like Monday, at the start of the semester?
On the first day of the semester, I send the mail to Yonsei University to update the notice on the main page of YSCEC regarding the LE Program. This is for the Korea students actually. I have all the exchange students’ email, so I can send them email about the application. I can’t get the email of some Korean students, so I use YSCEC or Facebook or the SNS. I get some applications for 3 days for Korea students and exchange students. Then we make 2 lists for the number of exchange students and Korean students, and what language they want. And that is the end of the first week.
Next week, we meet and check approximately how many Chinese, Japanese and English people there are. We have some process about matching the students and that takes about 3-4 days. We reorder the students based on what language they learn and language they can do. Then we make a new list and match for example the male Korean student who wants to learn English to an English male. That is our matching system and it take a long time to match and check. So we do that when we have a meeting or in their home. We exchange the files via our email and we make the final list at the same week’s Thursday. We then post the list on Facebook or via email for the exchange student. On Friday we have an orientation at the main auditorium. We explain how you the program works. We recommend what you can do and provide some explanation about the LE Program. So then we are almost done with week 1 and 2.
After the orientation we just check the LE partner’s problem. For example I don’t meet up with my partner or I can’t meet my partner, or can I get some information about my partner. We deal with the problems using email. So that is almost done in the end of September. And we get some new late applicants who missed the deadline. We rematch the person who want a new exchange student or Korean student as they did not get contact with their partner. So we make a new list for the foreigner and Korean and we rematch again. So we do that at like the end of October.

What do you like about working at your job? Like for example do you like the people? Or do you like the system?
I like the system, because I’m also doing the LE Program and I have a partner. So it’s good to see the other exchange student. So I’m the manager of the LE Program, but I’m also a participant of the LE program. So it’s a very good experience to me, and I can learn the other language like Japanese. Furthermore, checking the Facebook page is very interesting. Because when I see the posts on Facebook, I will think “I’ll do it with my partner later”. So it’s good to see.

The next question is what is it like working with the people?
My team is small, it’s just me and the other 2 members. I’m the youngest of the team, so it’s hard to ask them to do something. But they listen and do very well. So I don’t have any problems about them. Actually, I did have a problem. When I rematched the LE partners, I told the other member to rematch the partners, but he missed the deadline. So it’s too late, because I reminded him but he forgot again and again. So when we initially decided to send the rematch outcome in the first week of October, but he was late so we postponed the release of the result to the end of week 2 which was too late, so it’s a little problem to me. Because I have a responsibility to inform the new partners as soon as possible but I can’t, so it’s a little bit of a problem to me.

Is there a reason why? Is it because it’s a small team or is it normally like that? Is it a rule like Yonsei LE can only have 3 employees?
No. Yonsei global have many members but we have like 5 different departments and under the department we have lots of programs and LE is one of the programs that they have. So there is a limit to the number of people allocated to each program. There are some limitations, so I think that the manager of the Yonsei Global thinks that LE normally ends later and fast compared to other programs. Because we run the program for the one month and other programs have longer program weeks. We can have more if I asked for it, but I think it’s not needed. And if I have many people, it is harder to work. We have only 3 members, so we can exchange our information really efficiently. When there is more people it is harder to exchange opinions and it’s possible that there is overlap in work. It’s harder to get just one file.

What are the main rules for the program? Like did you set rules?
Nothing, because we are only 3 members and we just exchange easily and more frequently. So we do not need any rules. We are a very flexible team.

So you have mini rules like I need this matching by this date, but not any hardcore rules?
Ya, I have deadlines. I tell them they deadline of the fixing, and we all have schedules to follow. So when I have rules I just tell them directly and KakaoTalk.

What ways exist to find out what you do and what’s currently going on around here?
If someone who is completely new wants to know about your program or wants to know how your program functions, how would they do that? Let’s say a new international student came into Yonsei, they don’t know anything about LE program or how the program works, are there ways to find out? Like for example your Facebook page is one way, are there any other ways?
We introduced the program during the FSK (First Step to Korea) orientation. And maybe the friends can let them know about the LE program. And we have the front desk that they can ask.
So on average, how many times would you meet after the semester? I mean after the beginning of the semester?
We are just using the free time. When I am going to home, I check my Facebook and I click like without the busy time.
The next section is on Employee Resources and supports. What kind of person would apply for this job?
Someone who is very detail-oriented because we have lots of persons that apply for the LE program to participate. I think 700 or 800. So a person who is very detailed is needed to look at all the requirements and applicants.
What about language requirements? Do they need to be able to speak another language besides Korean?
No because they are only looking at applicants.
How does the organization takes care of its employees? For example if someone was sick?
They would take a break or do their work on another day or later. Because a majority of our work is during the beginning of the semester. If the member is sick, the work is passed on to another employee or to myself. The work is shared.
What is done here to help people along in their career and/or learning? Is there anything that the program does to help employees in their career path?
Not really. However, the president of this program receives a certificate that proves I took this job.
What is the benefit of having the certificate?
Umm I’m not sure because I have not used it but I think it can be used to add as part of a resume.
Do you guys get any training before you start the program every semester?
Actually we don’t have any training system but there is an informal training where a potential employee will participate in the program for 1 semester and then apply their next semester as an employee.
What if a new president was to join the LE program?
Oh, in that case, there are manuals and data information for new presidents that provides assistance as to how do their job. New presidents can look at that for guidance but for the most part, experience is a majority of the training.
How does the organization makes use of a person’s experience and ideas?
There is a system but it can change. The system is very informal. Since the Language Exchange program is a 3 member program, everyone’s ideas are accepted for the most part and we have group discussion on whether the idea is useful or should be used for another time.
Do you feel that your ideas are welcomed and valued in the LE program?
Yes, of course. Since we are a small team we are very close and have friendly relationship.
We are on to the second to last second now and it’s on communication. How does the organization keep track of what’s going on in other departments that might be relevant to your work?
There is a mailing system within all the organizations under Yonsei Global so that helps us keep track of what is going on not just in our department but in other departments as well. Also sometimes there is large meetings with multiple departments that helps us keep up-to-date on relevant news or updates.
Which outside groups does your organization pay attention to?
Near the LE program, the Yonsei Global department and the office of international affairs organization are two that we pay attention to because their decisions affect us. Like a ripple-effect. For example, the Office of International Affairs are the ones that choose some of the prizes for our events that we sponsor so we keep in close touch with them. And if we need any space for a public event or announcement we keep in touch with the Yonsei Global organization or the Office of International affairs office.
So where do you get funding from?
We actually do not need funding but for prizes during some of our events, funding comes from the office of international affairs.
Communication in the office. You guys communicate…
Yes, directly in the office, through Kakao and Facebook.
How do you contact managers of other departments?
The same way.
The last section is about challenges. How do you identify a problem? For example, how do you publicly make aware of that to fix it?
Since the other members and I are very close, most of the problems are confronted directly. However, there is a private grading sheet in which I fill out and give it to the Yonsei Global manager. Based on their performance, I give them a grade. It can be used as a record when thinking to hire these people again or not.
How do you solve problems? Do you get together and brainstorm or figure it out separately?
Typically we meet together and try to brainstorm but then separate because of time issue and try to figure it out alone. If someone has solution then we share with Kakao or Facebook. But sadly, not all solutions can be fixed. We have situations where one exchange students wants a Yonsei student that can speak Thai and Korean but there are no Yonsei students that can speak Thai. So sadly, not every student can be matched.
Do you have some disagreements with your other members sometimes?
Not so much because we are very close. Mostly minor ones like choosing event prizes.
What about bigger conflicts? Or are they mostly small ones?
Sometimes bigger conflicts involve some people not meeting deadlines to turn in their work. I just keep remind them to try to prevent it.
What future do you see for this organization?
I think it might go for a long time but it should be changed because there are some limitations where we can’t satisfy everybody. Some people complain that they don’t meet enough with their LE buddy or where matching requirements are not met. We have to change that to satisfy the needs of more applicants
What do you like best about working here?
Pleasure. I get a sense of satisfaction when I see Language Exchange partners having a good time and posting many pictures on our Facebook page I get happy and I am happy for them. Also like a sense of achievement because I see that the hard work paid off.
Do you have any additional comments? We really appreciate your time with us.
Oh thank you, that is it for me. I hope you guys apply again next semester if you are staying longer.

Appendix B Organizational Chart

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