Tales From Graduate School
South Korea’s distinctive blend of age-old traditions and modernity makes it a vibrant choice for those wishing to study abroad. The country hosts a number of internationally renowned universities that offer competitive, high quality and well respected education. Young people from developing countries have opted to study there. Many have enrolled, and continue to enroll for graduate studies, thanks to the availability of foreign scholarships. Kenyans have not been left behind. Their enrollment has steadily been rising. The bridge sought to find out how it is to study and live in S. Korea from some of these Kenyans who in essence are blazing the trail. We reached out to four graduate students from KyungPook National University, Daegu, who shared their experiences.
- Mutuku Stella Musyawa:
Master of Science (Msc) in Economics
The interest of my research concentrates on development economics, focusing on newly industrialized and developing countries. Living outside the comfort of my country’s family and culture has shaped my life, and made me more independent and responsible. This environment has exposed me to people from across the globe, an experience that has shaped my attitude and knowledge on diverse cultures the world over.
Full of passion for studying and the desire for a new experience beyond, was and has remained my motivation for my 3 year study and stay in South Korea. Well, it has been challenging taking all my courses in Korean language but the support of my professors, fellow students, well-equipped resource centers and the dedicated effort enabled me to overcome the barriers. As a Korean Government Scholarship Program (KGSP) beneficiary, I had to study Korean language for one year in Busan. Although the pressure from school work would get overwhelming, the experience was way amazing. School is well balanced with frequent field trips that are organized by the language institute. Moreover, because I attended my language school in Busan, which hosts most of the best recreation facilities in South Korea, I had diverse joints to unwind when school work got overwhelming.
Living outside the environs of one’s home implies starting life afresh and it comes with the fear of the unknown. But the world is full of great people and one is able to meet new people, whom with time become friends and then family. I must admit that that life abroad is not a bed of roses but neither is it back at home and each environment comes with its own challenges. A positive attitude to the unknown life beyond home enables one to cope up with the inevitable challenges. For example, living beyond one’s continent implies that the diet would be totally different and it is in learning how to appreciate different cultures that one enables one to get out of the comfort of their home country meals.
I would recommend students with a desire to study in South Korea to put effort in learning basic Korean via K-Drama, K-Pop, Apps (KoreanLite) and YouTube tutors. Being conversant with the basic Korean implies that you can easily integrate into their society
2. Bernard Ouma Alunda
Ph. D (Doctoral Degree) Department of Mechanical Engineering
My research area looks at the development of a versatile high-speed and hybrid atomic force microscope (AFM) for structural characterization and dynamic observation of samples at nano-/ pico-scale. I have lived in Korea for more than four (4) years. I heard about Kyungpook National University while taking my Masters degree at Yeungnam University (2010-2012). As a Ph. D student much is expected of me in terms of research. This calls for massive sacrifice that needs one to stay in the lab for hours. It is a tad draining but what motivates me the most is the passion and the enthusiasm that I have for what I do and the support from my advisor. He is an amazing and talented individual who believes that we can ace it. To that effect , the amount of time I spend in the laboratory matters less. I get propelled by achievements that I make periodically. Interestingly, I have resorted to labeling the days I spend sleepless nights, “nightless sleeps” to carry on the grind and make sure the concepts work no matter what. In fact I call my lab a ‘home’ because I spend lots of time in there.
My lab working hours range between 9 a.m. to roughly 2 a.m. Most of the times I get so much absorbed in my work that I even lose track of time. The experience and the build up of determination, has transformed me into an individual that can handle any sort of engineering task that I am faced with. Basically, Korea is a ‘palipali’ (in Swahili ‘chap chap’) society where people believe that things ought to be done fast and efficiently. The culture’s inbred slogan i.e. ‘fighting’ springs from every corner to encourage you whenever things get tough. I would say that South Korea has achieved a lot in terms of technology (IT and Engineering) and several universities as well as research institutes (www.ust.ac.kr) are equipped with the latest facilities to aid in nurturing cutting-edge technology. It would therefore be an interesting place to do your post-graduate studies.
- Joseph N. Tinega
Master of Science, (Msc) Environmental and Energy Engineering
Being humans we tend to slip into comfort quite easily. Traveling/studying in a foreign country is an exemplary way to step out of this comfort zone. I did my fair share of that in 2014 when I came to the Republic of Korea. Since then, the experiences and challenges that I have met have helped in rediscovering my passion and capabilities. They have shaped and built my character too. For instance, upon admission for my MSc I came across some part time Korean post graduate students, probably in their 30s, most of who were industrialists.
These students introduced me to their industries which resonated well with my studies, summing up the uniqueness of my study experience and its form of practicality. The visits had a lasting impression on me. I was more immersed and practical into Korea’s industry, which is mostly heavy and chemical, factors that have been the backbone of their great economic growth. To add, their work ethos and ethic, just-do-it spirit, and emphasis on efficiency by using the latest forms of technology (an example could be the use of robots in the production systems) was such a great observation. With my life-long dream of being an industrialist, this was an eye opener. Nevertheless, because the country is not a resource rich nation, their greatest resource has been the human capital. Industrialists here have a drive or cultural desire to catch up with the West or being at the fore front of innovation/ invention.
Although Korean people have an intense work lifestyle and less social, one could choose to adopt some of the best values, skills and technological know-how, and then replicate them back at home. That could inspire and invigorate our economy. I have learnt, still learning and look forward to displaying the same once I am back in Kenya.
- Agumba Dickens Owino
Masters of Science (Msc), Advanced Mechanical Engineering
Studying abroad has become the dream of many students seeking to pursue their academic careers outside the confines of their home. Well, such an opportunity gives one the added advantage of exploring the world. Thus, it provides a unique way of enriching our education, general knowledge and outlook on life. South Korea is a great option if you would opt to study abroad.
The academic environment here is highly competitive. This keeps you on toes. A wide variety of courses are on offer and therefore an international student will easily find an area to tap into. To crown it all, the Korean government and the individual universities offer far much better scholarship opportunities for top performing international students. For those seeking to study abroad, I highly recommend the Republic of Korea.
KyungPook National University
Located in Daegu, Kyungpook National University is one of the top National (Public) Universities in South Korea. It retains top-notch educational and research capabilities that nurture world-class talents who could actively function at the heart of new growth engines. In 2015, CWUR (Center for World University Rankings) ranked KNU 1st among the national universities and 8th among all the universities in South Korea.
The university offers three types of scholarship to international students: University Sponsored Scholarship (KINGS), Government Sponsored Scholarship (KGSP) and KOICA sponsored scholarship. While the KGSP scholars require a minimum of Korean Topik Level 3 for admission, the other two scholarships are open to scholars without the Korean language requirement.
Degree programs across diverse fields: Humanities, Social Science, Natural Science, Engineering, Agricultural Science and Medical science are offered. Majority of the classes in Social Science and Humanity Courses are offered in Korean language therefore graduate students require a minimum of Intermediate Korean Language skills (Topik Level 3) for admission and Topik Level 4 for graduation. Fortunately the university has quite a big population of foreigners in the science and engineering departments therefore there are plenty classes that are taught in English.