- 2019 Matriculation Address 2019.02.28
February 28, 2019
Our honored freshman class, I sincerely welcome you as the newest members of Yonsei University today. Congratulations on succeeding in making it here based on your years of hard work and perseverance. I would also like to express my respect and gratitude to the loving parents and people who devotedly supported you all day and night.
You stand today on the Yonsei campus grounds which remain ablaze with the fervor and turmoil of modern Korean history. In the dark times of the 19th century, the founders of Yonsei University bestowed the spirit of duty and service here. The painful period of the Japanese rule and the Korean War, as well as the historical journey toward Korea’s democratization and industrialization, dwell on these grounds. Many Yonseians dedicated their lives to the March 1 Independence Movement, which will mark its centennial in a few days. One of the 33 independence activist leaders Yi Gap-seong was a graduate of Severance Union Medical College and had worked at Severance Hospital. Dr. William Schofield, who was a lecturer at the medical college, was actively involved in the independence activities and brought to light Korea’s plight under Japanese colonialism to the rest of the world. The resistance movement would not have spread throughout the country without the fearless activities of the students of Yonhi College and Severance Union Medical College - the two predecessor schools of Yonsei University. National poet Yun Dong-ju wrote of the sky, wind, and stars at the Yonsei grounds, and professor Choe Hyeon-bae fought against Japan’s repressive assimilation policies to preserve Hangul as a key advocator of the nation’s language. The prevailing spirit of Christianity at Yonsei University and the legacies left by your seniors are monumental and enduring, so I encourage you to learn about Yonsei’s history from now on.
I will take a moment to introduce the education you will experience at Yonsei University. Here at Yonsei, you can freely pursue your interests by taking courses within a wide spectrum of academic fields or by participating in extracurricular activities. Do not spend your college years just focusing on achieving job search goals, but remember to create your own story. If everyone enters the same competition, they will all share similar qualities and thus no one can be different or special. You are running the Red Queen’s race in Alice in Winterland by Lewis Carroll, which “takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.” Therefore, do not join the race but build your own unique story. Yonsei provides many opportunities for you to write different stories, so I encourage you to actively pursue options for yourself.
Freshman students, your generation was born into the new century of the year 2000, and you will live until the age of 110 - until the 2100s. Half of today’s jobs are expected to be replaced by AI technology before you even reach your thirties. The era of pursuing one sole career your entire life has already come to an end. In the midst of these changes, Yonsei University is focused on how to prepare you to thrive in the future and is thus providing relevant and meaningful education to advance as a future university.
During your freshman year, you will live at the International Campus as part of Yonsei's prestigious Residential College (RC) program, where you will receive the world's finest common curriculum education. You will also learn good judgment by accepting friends with different personalities and interests and by engaging with people who are in need. You will develop into an intelligent, warm-hearted person with powerful human skills that artificial intelligence cannot imitate.
Yonsei University offers a holistic education where students both teach and learn from inside and outside the classroom. We are shifting our educational focus from competition to problem-solving. Students learn how to think and collaborate through flipped classroom courses, where they first access the professor’s lecture online and then engage in discussions in the classroom. Last year, Yonsei opened 88 courses on problem-solving for social issues and 35 courses on entrepreneurship. 5,500 students addressed social problems that impact Korea and the international community.
Equipped with university support funds, Yonsei undergraduates produced amazing results from their social problem-solving initiatives. One team traveled to Niue - a small island country with less than half the population of Seoul - to meet its Prime Minister, ultimately succeeding in establishing a consultative agreement to revitalize the tourism industry as a solution to Niue’s population decline. Another student team developed folded chairs for cramped spaces such as subways or buses that unfold with mobile authentication. This team was awarded the grand prize and the opportunity to travel abroad for more ideas. I hope our freshman students will take full advantage of Yonsei’s relevant and meaningful education by tapping freely into their curiosity and creativity through such programs.
Lastly, I would like to ask you to share your unique story and exceptional skills with the world and become a global talent with whom people aspire to collaborate. As soon as you go home today, I encourage you to begin your journey to showcase your distinctiveness worldwide by building a strong online presence on global platforms such as Linkedin. Make known that your stage is not Korea, but the world. This initiative will make a great difference when you enter society after graduation.
I will do my utmost to ensure that when we meet again in eight semesters for graduation, you all will have developed into intelligent, warm-hearted talent that are free-willed, embody the spirit of service and self-sacrifice, and value others as one community. Our entire faculty, staff, and alumni will support you as you become true Yonseians on these campus grounds full of the Yonsei spirit.
I hope you will fully enjoy your upcoming university days with the energy of the AKARAKA cheer. May the truth set you free.