Dabin - Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)

B. Engineering
Semester 1, 2015; Semester 2, 2015

Academic experience

I was abroad for a whole year and the courses I took are as follows:

  • Calculus II
  • Probability and Statistics
  • Mathematical Modeling
  • Heat Transfer
  • Mechanical Vibrations
  • Flight Mechanics
  • Computational Fluid Dynamics
  • Aeroacoustics

KAIST isn't lenient when it comes to switching and reenrolling onto courses after the two week window of course enrollment period. Hence I recommend enrolling in all the courses you might be taking, then dropping them later if you don't want to continue in it.

I enjoyed the small class environment at KAIST. A major difficulty was having no tutorial session and loads of homework. The best way to overcome these difficulties is by making local friends in the classrooms and also get to know the tutor well and ask for help. 

Furthermore, they don't have mid-semester breaks and the course advances even during mid-term exam periods, hence if you're not careful, after the mid-sem exam, you'll find yourself behind schedule in the curriculum.

Personal experience

Korea is actually my home country but I've been away from it for over 10 years. Hence I was a foreigner despite my appearance and this caused some confusion for the people in Korea. I had the advantage of communicating without a problem and also being able to understand the cultures in Korea.

I travelled independently to over 10+ cities in Korea and made a lot of connections and friends. I became quite skilled in planning trips and navigating. As for my Korean, I have improved significantly in vocabulary, especially the abbreviations that most people are accustomed to using now.

Accommodation

I have lots of relatives and connections all over the country so wherever I went, accommodation wasn't a problem for me. Yet I will recommend that you live on-campus for its convenience in getting to classes and its low price. Dormitories will cost around $150 a month. I could get to class in 5 minutes from my dorm. Also convenience store opens till 2am so its easy to get a snack or something if you're hungry late at night.

Budget

Budgeting will depend on your lifestyle. For me personally, I did a lot of travelling and ate outside university quite frequently. I also went shopping quite frequently, hence on top of what I took originally, I had to send 5 boxes of luggage back to Australia. I spent about 9K each semester. During the holidays I travelled most of Korea which cost me around 2~3K alone. Otherwise if you plan to stick with food on campus plus a few trips here and there, you shouldn't need more than 3~4K for essentials.

Professional development and employability

Becoming able to fully comprehend Korean cultures and Western cultures, I believe my experience at KAIST will open opportunities for employment in Korea for me and strengthen my ground in foreign markets that deal with countries in Asia. I was also able to gain prospects in some of the research that is happening at KAIST.

Highlight

There were many highlights at KAIST and one of them was becoming involved in a society called MOKA (Models of KAIST). This group of students co-ordinate with the advertising director who is also the official photographer at KAIST. Activities include regular photoshoots throughout the semester which a selected few become the banner at KAIST's official homepage, part of the yearly calendar, or are used for other marketing purposes for KAIST. As an exchange student it is difficult to become involved in a society because they generally want people who will be around for a long period of time, yet the students in this society were welcoming to exchange students.

Top tips

  • The campus is extremely large and is difficult to get around without a bike. So I would recommend getting one ($50~100), then selling it before you return.
  • For your travels, familiarize yourself with the express bus network rather than the KTX as it is actually cheaper and more comfortable.
  • Use Kakao taxi to call taxis to your dorm and use Daum maps for navigation, Google is quite useless in Korea.
  • KAIST also runs shuttle buses every hour that takes you to the city centre.