While there are many similarities in higher education with what is consistent in the states, South Korea does offer some differences. This past weekend, I was invited to participate in MT, or Membership Training. I was told it is a weekend retreat which is a part of all college programs and that it ( like almost all activities in Korea) involves food and drink. While I was skeptical as to the point of such a retreat, I was pleasantly surprised by attending. Yes, there was alcohol, beer and soju, the almost constant beverages here in Busan but the focus was on togetherness and team building, not drinking. 18 is the legal drinking age in Korea. Many college students are older due to mandated military service of 2 years for the men. So, nothing illegal was going on. Dongseo is a Christian university so there's a big difference with religiously founded school's in the USA. The administration does not deny the use of alcohol by students.
When I arrived, with another Professor around 6 pm on Saturday night, the retreat was in full swing. About 40 students had gathered in a large hotel room efficiency. I was told the area and hotels are popular choices for MT training. The room was large, had a kitchen at one end and three bedrooms off the main room. The room was really a large apartment set up for 40 or 50 people to meet. Small folding tables were set up and everyone was cooking and eating. We were ushered to the head table. Here's where the " Training" comes in; Freshman students serve and follow the instructions of upper-class men and women ( women, mostly!) and the Junior / Senior students serve and wait on the faculty and guests. The food was delicious and each table had a portable butane grill, where a student grilled meats and veggies. After dinner, the seniors managed the freshmen in cleaning of all dishes, folding and dismantling tables, sweeping floor, etc.. It was an army of freshmen, proving they were Team players and efficient workers.
Once the room was cleared, all gathered for games. The game programming was coordinated by 2 freshmen guys. I was informed it is a great honor to be assigned this task. The had a selection of games-including a version of charades, in English for my honor, and some fun party games I had never played. We picked teams and team captains and all laughed for about 3 hours of play. Yes, there was a winning team and ultimately a winning player. He was told that his grand prize was a wonderful meal- which he had just eaten! Very cute. Now we left around 10 pm and the students stayed through the night, so there were activities that I did not see. But all in all, a fun experience and a look into the respect for elders factor that influences all things Korean.