I haven’t yet discussed here my life at KAIST; said life has rather got in the way of writing it down. Because that seems to be the key feature of university living – consistently impending deadlines and an ever-growing to-do list.
Two weeks into my second semester, I am already finding my timetable full to bursting either with lectures, recitation classes or club activities, all of which bear ‘homework’ time commitments. Meanwhile, I spend probably too long on the ‘home affairs’ side of things – cooking, laundry and general life maintenance – which, though not entirely a new category of time consumption within my life, seem to take much more mental contemplation than one would imagine. On top of all that, I do try to make time for a social life as well as exercise – so perhaps you can see why I’m feeling busy.
This semester, as it is no longer my first, I had to sign up for classes on my own – as here, we must pick all our own courses, to fulfil the requirements of whichever major subject we wish to pursue. In my case, this is Physics, and as I’ve been told by many people, perhaps this makes me crazy! I want to discuss the course selection and academic expectations of KAIST at a later time, but I will say this: although we are afforded some freedom by the choice of when we wish to take certain courses, the prerequisites and seemingly small timeframe within which things must be completed effectively means your timetable is dictated anyway. For this reason, I have lectures at 9am every day of the week (I’m sure any university student recoils in horror at that thought!), and given the other things I have (mostly voluntarily!) joined that extend into the evening and beyond, my days are long and exhausting.
Partly though, this is my method for managing what some must assume is a very severe potentiality for homesickness – staying busy prevents ponderous wallowing in missing home comforts and family conversation. Saying that though, we are lucky that these days, the world is a small place, connected by technology: rather than waiting weeks for handwritten news of home, I can just call at any time.
I am lucky to have joined the university at a time when they are actively focusing on the recruitment of international students – I’ve made friends from all over the world – though ironically, it is hardest to make friends with a Korean. And yes, perhaps I miss my home comforts and familiarities, but being in this new culture has given me so many other new experiences, that will form me into a better and maturer person. The differences between my situation and if I had attended a UK university are not so great, except for the knowledge that I definitely can’t go home for a weekend; instead I am being more creative with my newly gained complete control over how I spend my free moments.
I am coming to realise that becoming an adult is very much a process rather than overnight transformation. Coming to KAIST has forced me into relative independence, but still has some of the regimentation of school – I always have classes to attend and homework to catch up on. I’m at an in-between stage, which though at times seems limiting, is helping me to find my feet at a slower pace.