Philippe - KAIST

B. Science

Academic experience

While on exchange, I studied a full-time course load of Evolution, Developmental Biology, Enzymology, Synthetic Biology and Scientific Communication.

I found that while on exchange, the academic system was very different to Australia, with very different priorities. Courses, in general, were designed to be easy to pass, but hard to get A's in, with a strong focus on rote memorization and examinations. Attendance to lectures was mandatory and graded, which became somewhat tricky as some classes were cancelled and rescheduled throughout the semester.

Personal experience

Although I felt that, academically, my experience could have been better, I felt that from a less academic standpoint the experience of travelling to Korea was great. Since there were quite a few other international students, it was an opportunity to meet and talk to different and interesting people from around the world. 

The chance to explore Korea's culture and history was another great opportunity, especially since I knew relatively little about the country before I went. From the metropolis of Seoul to the beaches of Busan or Jeju, as well as quieter cultural areas such as Gyeongju, Korea was a place that I felt definitely broadened my horizons.

Accommodation

I, like pretty much everyone at KAIST, lived in on-campus housing with a roommate. The dorms were roughly a 15-minute walk from the classrooms and lecture theatres, so it didn't feel very far out of the way. The campus felt much larger in size than it actually was since it was split down the middle by a hill and you had to walk to one of the ends to get around it. The on-campus housing was fairly generic and the same for pretty much everyone, so there were no real 'sneaky tips' to offer about having better accommodation. 

I will say that as a suburbanite, the sheer number of identical apartment buildings that were prevalent throughout Korea was somewhat off-putting, but the culture is different there.

Budget

Things in Korea felt like they were cheaper than in Australia. Accommodation for six months ended up coming to the equivalent of $600, and I ended up getting a partial refund since I only stayed for the four months of the semester. Generic cafeteria food was absurdly cheap, with full meals costing as much as $3, but it was also fairly bland, leading to a lot of students going off campus to get meals at nearby restaurants, or occasionally ordering food to be delivered. Budget-wise, I feel that ~$2,000 was plenty, although amount could vary depending on how much travel you do and how much you spend.

Professional development and employability

I feel that while on exchange I had the opportunity to interact with people from different cultures all around the world, which I feel helped broaden my horizons.

Highlight

Coming from Australia, a country that doesn't really have a proper passing of seasons, I think the highlight of my trip was the transformation throughout autumn into winter snows. I felt that it was really beautiful and not something that I'd have much of a chance to see in Australia.

Top tips

  • Be aware that some countries have a different academic culture to what you may be used to.
  • Most of the best moments of exchange you get when you go travelling somewhere with some friends.
Philippe - KAIST