A Semester at KAIST

Paris Franz, a sophomore Chemical Engineering Major, has wanted to study abroad in Asia for a while now, and since her mother is Korean she most wanted to study in Korea. Fortunately for her, a recent partnership between KAIST (nicknamed the “MIT of Korea”) and Miami University created an exchange program where students can study between the two universities. The students pay their home university’s tuition rate while they study at the other one, making it easier for students to spend an entire semester abroad for a completely immersive experience. Paris went to KAIST during Fall 2016.

Paris and her friends try on traditional Korean dressParis had a lot of positive things to say about the experience. KAIST is in the fifth largest city in Korea, so the environment is a lot different than quiet Oxford. The dorms were cheap, traveling was cheap, and the food was cheap (and delicious). KAIST also has a much greater focus on graduate studies than Miami, so there was always a lot of cool research going on. Paris was interested in traveling while she was there, and she said it was easy to schedule no classes on Fridays, which made the trips more convenient, whether she was going to Japan, Seoul, or Busan.

As for how the educational experience was different, she thought the classes were comparable in terms of difficulty, but the professors were much less accessible than Miami’s, and they didn’t hold regular office hours. The courses were also less structured, and had less homework and fewer exams than their Miami counterparts. Overall, the courses were challenging but manageable.

She made close friends with the other international students, who lived together in the dorm. She also got involved with on-campus activities, such as the rock-climbing club and the “Appropriate Technology” club, that brought Korean and international students together to develop a prototype technology given a specific challenge. While she was there, the challenge was to create wearable tech that would alert the wearer to natural disasters.

Paris was at the 2016 South Korean Protests in SeoulShe also accidentally walked into history being made while on one of her trips to Seoul. Koreans have been protesting President Park Geun-hye, who has been the subject of much scandal, after a close confidant of hers (with no security clearance) was revealed to have both have access to confidential government information and to have extorted over $700 million from Korean businesses.

“I was in Seoul during the night of the biggest protest. It was really well organized and I was really impressed by it,” Paris remembered. She got to be a part of a significant (and currently ongoing) event in Korean history, and that is something few Miami students can say.

Those interested in the KAIST exchange program should reach out to Dr. Koo in the MME department for more information.

By Paige Smith