After months of planning and panic, I finally arrived in Korea about a week ago to study for the final semester of my master’s in physics at KAIST. It has been a pretty exciting week so far, with a lot of new experiences, foods, and friends. Many of the new international students (of whom I am the only British one) were put in the same dormitory, making it easy to make new friends just as curious and bewildered as I was.

I got the first spell of homesick panic out of the way quickly, allowing me to enjoy all of the new experiences that came my way – eating kimchi and rice for breakfast, choosing random items from restaurant menus, and of course enjoying all of the amazing sights that Korea has to offer.

The attitude at KAIST with regards to education and academia is very refreshing. There is much focus on working towards being a researcher, and therefore the courses are very much aimed at training intelligent and inspired young scientists, who have a real understanding of their work as opposed to memorising how to pass exams.

KAIST is a very serious and respected institution in Daejeon and Korea – KAIST students hesitate to wear any KAIST merchandise off campus to avoid appearing arrogant. This serious attitude was displayed in the student orientation activities, which were somewhat modest compared to Southampton’s Fresher’s Week. Even without many organised activities, we found many fun things to explore and experiences to try for ourselves. I am confident there will be many more, in Daejeon and beyond.

I would like to give a huge thank you to the international office team at the University of Southampton, especially Cleome Dakin, for being a massive help with planning this exchange. I hope my bureaucratic acrobatics will serve to make exchanges to KAIST simpler in the future, and aid in strengthening the bond between Southampton and KAIST.

My first week at KAIST, South Korea

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