Do you know SIFE? SIFE stands for Students In Free Enterprise, an international participation program for university students to make a difference in the world while improving their business management skills. It is not just a simple volunteer club; SIFE helps people in need overcome the obstacles in their lives. For example, SIFE does not just give money to people, but helps people with employment as well.
Within recent years, SIFE at Gachon University has been receiving awards from the SIFE Korea National Competitions. In 2011, not only did they win the award, but they also appeared on TV and were also selected by the Bio-fuels activity club of POSCO. This time we were able to meet with Dong-Sun Kim, who leads SIFE at Gachon University; we talked about the year 2011 and what a “real university student” means to him.
1. Introduce us to SIFE at Gachon University
Currently there are 20 active members and 40 sub-members who help out as well.
2. What is the goal for SIFE?
SIFE overall has one main goal and that is to focus on the business networking of the present and future so that it can develop and sustain positive business activity.
3. What do you think is the distinctive characteristic of SIFE at Gachon University, compared to that of other universities?
I think it is authenticity. The panel of judges at the SIFE Korea National Competition knew our authenticity, which comes from our sincere mind. It leads us to win the prize every year in a crucial competition.
4. SIFE at Gachon University won third prize again in 2011. How do you usually choose criteria for the project topic?
There are no specific standards but we choose a topic that is more suitable for the aim of society, environment, and economy, etc. We make the project and submit the piece to open an exhibition or competition for 6 months. If the piece gets recognized by many people, we launch that as the project for SIFE Korea National Competition.
5. What motivated you to join SIFE?
It may sound like an excuse, but it was hard for me to get a chance to be involved with society or economy because my major is computer technology. Then one day I heard about an international club, which is called SIFE. I figured it was some sort of service club so I went with my friend. At first, SIFE was very different from what I expected. I was able to make many friends, participate in a competition, and do something that is hard to experience with life at college. Eventually I fell in love with SIFE.
6. When there are troubles in the team, how do you solve them?
Everyone in SIFE has one aim, so they try to exclude personal emotions. It is possible to distinguish those who work hard from those who don’t. Leadership is important to us and we realize it makes us work even harder. Also there are the people who are involved with HR, so they plan club activities and parties to resolve our problems and relieve our stress.
7. What did you bring to the table when you became president of SIFE? Tell us some stories.
Before I became president, I used to talk gibberish and was very simple-minded. But once I became president, I experienced the crucial events that my seniors also have gone through before me. I was able to try many things like preparing presentations of business plans, go to other business companies like POSCO, and do presentations in front of them. We were criticized by them many times and we tried harder despite the harsh comments. We read more books, got advice from seniors, and comforted each other. I think we had an opportunity to mature.
8. Isn’t it hard to keep up with your studies and also be an active member of SIFE? How do you keep up with both?
First, I try to read many books. I always think there are many things to learn from books. Second, in hard times, we comfort each other and listen to the advice of seniors. These are rare and valuable opportunities for us to learn. Last, my parents, who opposed my activities with SIFE at first, support me now since I received an award, have gone abroad and appeared on TV. These are the things that keep me motivated.
9. What do you remember most about 2011?
There was a project to help a person with hearing-impaired problems find a job. She was 32 years old, and she got a job in Starbucks as a barista. KBS made a documentary about her story with us. She said when she got the job, her parents cried. They said their daughter earning money was amazing and they were very thankful. To us, it was like a college club activity, but to her it was one of the most important moments in her life. We had this conversation in a subway and she cried tears of joy. This was most memorable for me in 2011.
10. Finally, what would you like to say to our students?
I think it is a big problem for many Korean students that they join clubs just to put something in their resume. Many students tend to do these activities just to build a career. But members of SIFE
who are abroad put their passion to their work. I worry about getting a job too, but I also feel regrettable as well. People worry too much about getting employed so they are not able to experience or live their college years.
Our 20’s will never return. We don’t enjoy valuable experiences because we are preoccupied with employment. Is it all right? We need to think this over and try to do things differently.
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