The wisp of unsullied grass scent carried by an invigorating breeze, leaves reviving back to emerald green, passing milky-faced freshman with a grin on a typical spring day at the University of Seoul (UOS). Unfortunately for those who indulged in historically one of the most vigorous winters, you cannot keep spring from coming. It is the season of the year to wrap up the antiques and doll yourself up.
Yet, we are sitting in a closed classroom in a huddle jotting down every word that comes out of the professor’s mouth, preparing ourselves for the midterms, finals and upcoming tasks of the countless remaining days ahead of us. How ironic is it that most professors advise us that our Grade Point Averages (GPAs) are not the only thing we get out of college when the record of our academic evaluation perpetually traces us till death do us part. And though our marriage to our GPAs is monogamous, that does not mean we cannot have a few harmless affairs with unforgettable good times.
The tuition may have been reduced by half, but that does not reduce our rights to exercise carpe diem. We must be compensated for all the hard work and all the hours of sedentary times — not in ten or twenty years, but this spring! How? Let us put aside the Hacker’s TOEIC for a few days and participate in the annual function, the UOS Festival!
The wisp of unsullied grass scent carried by an invigorating breeze, leaves reviving back to emerald green, passing milky-faced freshman with a grin on a typical spring day at the University of Seoul (UOS). Unfortunately for those who indulged in historically one of the most vigorous winters, you cannot keep spring from coming.
It is the season of the year to wrap up the antiques and doll yourself up. Yet, we are sitting in a closed classroom in a huddle jotting down every word that comes out of the professor’s mouth, preparing ourselves for the midterms, finals and upcoming tasks of the countless remaining days ahead of us. How ironic is it that most professors advise us that our Grade Point Averages (GPAs) are not the only thing we get out of college when the record of our academic evaluation perpetually traces us till death do us part.
And though our marriage to our GPAs is monogamous, that does not mean we cannot have a few harmless affairs with unforgettable good times. The tuition may have been reduced by half, but that does not reduce our rights to exercise carpe diem. We must be compensated for all the hard work and all the hours of sedentary times — not in ten or twenty years, but this spring! How? Let us put aside the Hacker’s TOEIC for a few days and participate in the annual function, the UOS Festival!
The UOS Festival does not fit the bill
The university Festival, also known as Daedongje, consists of three Chinese characters: 大 (big), 同 (same) and 祭 (socialize). It means everyone harmonizes and socializes as one. The reason it occurs in May is because of the month’s beauty and the new blooms correspond with the ambition and enthusiasm of youngsters. The festival is the pillar of college life and provides an opportunity to feel humanity, unity, friendship, and allows us to gain unforgettable experiences that complete our personal memoirs.
As good as the word sounds, it is an unfortunate truth that at UOS people have low expectations for this festival. In order to seek the possible reasons for the unsatisfactory reputation of the festival, a few dozen people have been interviewed. After taking out the overlapping content, here are the cardinal points: “It may be the image UOS has, but the festival seems much too low-key. There are not enough activities for students to enjoy. We want unconventional ones.” (Hwang Jae-hong, Dept. of International Relations, ’07) “Student participation matters. We need to have pride in our festival and actively engage ourselves in it.” (Kim Yun-ha, School of Economics, ’11) “I hate the atmosphere of alcohol and the circle oriented festival. Regardless the lack of will to participate, there are still not enough items to look forward to. Also, the professors still give us work to do.” (Kang H****-k**, Dept. of International Relations, ’06) Simply put, the festival is not attention grabbing, too obvious with items, practically alcohol oriented and a burden to juggle with classes.
The survey of 500 student conducted by The UOS Times tells us that only two percent of students are satisfied with the Festival. A 67 percent majority of students think that the festival performance is less than average. UOS could do better than this; clearly, the UOS Festival does not fit the bill for us. For the sake of alumni, current students and our future juniors, we need significant ‘changes we can believe in.’
Heart pounding race — the Little 500
In 2008, while the current American President was a Democratic Presidential hopeful and Senator of the United States, Barak Obama visited the Indiana University Bloomington to watch a bicycle race. He walked around the track and cheered for racing teams while shaking the hands of the university students and collecting a bunch of bike team T-shirts. The Little 500 is an annually held bicycle race at the Indiana University, and famous visitors such as Barak Obama, Lance Armstrong and T-pain speak of its nationwide popularity.
▲ Lil Wayne’s concert at the Little 500 in 2011
The executive Director of the Indiana University student foundation first started the race following the footsteps of The Indianapolis 500, which is one of the three most influential motorsports events in the world. The only difference is that, since 1951, the Little 500 is a race of bicycles, in teams of four, for 200 laps on a cinder track. The race has evolved into a delegate of the whole town of Bloomington as the major event from the region. The townies and students of Bloomington would like to call the Little 500 ‘the world’s greatest college weekend.’ The pageantry has brought more than $1 million to the student scholarship fund, and each year more than 25,000 fans crowd the town for the whole week. Lance Armstrong recalls the event as ‘one of the coolest events I have ever attended.’
▲ The Little 500 winning team ‘Cutters’ from Breaking Away
Breaking Away is a Golden Globe Award winning youth sports movie ranked 8th from the America’s 100 most inspiring movie list. The movie script is based on four students from Bloomington joining the Little 500 bicycle race and winning. With its tremendous success, the film brought fame to the race and attention to the youngsters who participated in the event. Dave Blaze, who was the inspiration for the movie, explained the Little 500 during an interview with UWIRE, the college network of student journalists: “The greatest thing about the Little 500 is that the entertainment and satisfaction give inspiration to others. I view it as more of a story about anyone who has ridden in the race, not about me particularly. For anyone who has ever been in the race, it is a landmark in their lives. All of the excitement that goes with it, the preparation and the actual race itself, turns into a landmark of your college experience and later of your whole life.”
▲ The Little 500 race at the Indiana University Bloomington
Students who participate in the race are excused from classes and students, staff and all the others from the town enjoy the race, outdoor parties and concerts that come along with it. Brian Kaminsky (Alumni of the Indiana University, ’08) believes what makes the race special is not only the training that the riders endure all year long, but even more so, the training we, as students, endure going through the week of the Little 500 joining every event possible. He still visits the university during race week and his heart pounds as it did when he was back in his twenties.
▲ Obama at the Little 500
Passion of youth — Akaraka!
Perhaps an example case from the West seems too unrealistic? Let us turn our heads to an Eastern college festival. The Yonsei University’s Festival is known to be the most popular one around among the league of colleges. Every May, the university students and the Student Council cooperate to prepare unique booths to make them exciting. Here are some examples of the events: a Hamster Lottery (picking a winning number by which numbered door a hamster runs into), an International Cultural Show (foreign students wear their traditional dress and serve food and drinks), the Yonsei Club (basically a temporary club with loud music and lasers on campus).
▲ Akaraka club members cheering for the Yonsei University
Above all, the apex of the Yonsei Festival is cheering. Akaraka, the cheering club at the Yonsei University since 1970, arranges the event that stars famous singers and idols. In 2011, the Akaraka event brought 20,000 people despite the not-so-cheap ticket price of 8,000 won and considering most of those in attendance were students with not a lot of money. Still, all the tickets, including the scalpers’, were sold out. After two hours of live celebrity performances, one hour of cheering for Yonsei follows.
▲ Akaraka captain cheering in front of students of the Yonsei University
There are students from the Korea University, the rival university of the Yonsei, wearing red shirts in contrast to the majority of people wearing blue shirts. Still, the two coexist in concord at the event delivering the splendid cheer; Akaraka! Ara-chi! Ara-cho! Ara-chi-chi! Cho-cho-cho! The sound of the Akaraka radiates youthful energy, passion and pride; suppressed stress and all the academic sacrifices seemed to be partly if not entirely released from the last day of the Yonsei Festival and the students were re-charged for the rest of the semester.
Sweeten the pot
Taking a good look at the two presented successful models above can lead us to the furtherance of UOS’s competitiveness and reputation. In relation to that, the first baby step is to participate. If our students do not come to the festival to give it a shot, who else will? People are bound to join the crowd. Thanks to the beautiful appearance of the campus, if enough of a crowd is gathered, others including friends, families, alumni and townies will follow. Many of the interviewees mentioned it was not worth checking out; oh well; let us make them regret that decision. Institutional assistance could also strengthen the festival in many ways.
Some students feel too burdened to attend the festival if they have makeup classes. Prohibiting classes during the week or for a few days of the festival or giving credit for class attendance by coming to the festival instead may help increase the attendance rates. Another consideration is, as the Little 500 was started by the founding members of the school, it would be great to embark on some events or competitions that can characterize and epitomize the school’s identity on a larger scale and start a legacy.
As the Bible says, “Your beginning may be humble, so prosperous will your future be (Job 8:7).” Whether such a contribution from the institution is provided or not, the triumph of the festival lies on our shoulders; individual booths or events must offer a special experience and something other than alcohol for visitors. Creativity is the key. Lastly, it must bring passion to the campus. We are the protagonists of any occasions at the school. Take the wheel as we are young and proud; youthful passions can never be wasted.
Change starts from the bottom up
The well-known image of an introverted UOS school/student does not fly anymore. Employers are looking for outstanding, extroverted individuals. The recruiting values of Samsung, every student’s most revered corporation, are creativity, passion and collaboration. It is time to fill up our deficiency. We can start on a macro-level, this May, at our loving school, through the festival. All we need is 3 P’s to make a great festival happen: participation, proficiency and passion. Forrest Gump once told us, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get.”
So the festival should be. It should be full of joy and crowd that does not know which way to turn. Hence, register for a booth, be active, creative and professional, make your ideas happen, show your pride and bring something to the table. Let the UOS Festival echo down from Dongdaemun to Gangnam once and for all. At long last, realization will spark; you can re–take classes but never relive one good moment. In conclusion, leave no trace behind — take the trash with you.