Seniority’s complex

A senior and junior greet each other (IMAGE: An Ah-hyun and Charles Ian Chun)

A senior and junior greet each other
(IMAGE: An Ah-hyun and Charles Ian Chun)

Many college students are interested in making personal connections. These can consist of friends, professors, and the senior (선배)-junior (후배) relationship. This last one is considered especially important. In Korea it is a virtue when seniors show consideration for juniors, and juniors respect them in return. Today, however, many people are concerned about this relationship. The Hakbo spoke to a group of seniors and a group of juniors about the problems they each face.

It can be difficult for seniors and juniors to get to know each other. A male senior said, “Most seniors take the initiative getting to know their juniors. But if that junior is not responsive or just has nothing to say, it’s hard trying to talk to that person again later.” A female junior said, “I don’t know how to respond to seniors. I’m afraid that if I say the wrong thing or disagree with them too much, they won’t like me. Even if they’re nice to me, I can’t help being nervous.”

Seniors should understand that juniors are self-conscious and worry about what they say and do. Juniors, on the other hand, need to be more active about expressing themselves. It may even be helpful for juniors to share the fact that they are feeling insecure.

Simple greetings are also a main source of conflict in a senior-junior relationship. Seniors don’t like to be the first to say hello and expect juniors to greet them first. If a junior does not greet them first or simply ignores them, seniors feel displeased and disappointed. Some juniors are afraid to greet seniors they don’t know well. One junior said, “If I bow to him, he might think, “Why is he bowing to me? We hardly know each other.”” There is a little war of nerves no matter who greets the other first.

Other sources of tension between the two groups are time and money. When going out, seniors feel obligated to pick up the tab. Juniors usually want a lot of advice from their seniors but are always afraid of taking up too much of their time. Both groups are probably putting unnecessary burdens on themselves. Most of the seniors interviewed said they are fond of sharing information and giving advice on things like classes, professors, and grades. It also turns out many juniors sometimes wish to pay the check as a way of showing thanks to their seniors.

The way to behave in a senior-junior relationship does not have to be complicated. One student said, “I am both someone’s senior and someone’s junior, so no one is in an absolutely advantageous position. Think first how you think a senior should be and how a junior should be then just act that way.” A senior advises students not to be calculating. “If you are sincere, the relationship will improve naturally.”

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