On the rainy Friday evening of November 17, one could see a group of international students rushing to get to the International Center (W2-1). The reason behind this so-called “sprint” was the new seminar conducted by ISSS; “How To Study at KAIST” is a topic that will never become irrelevant for students here.
In the seminar room, there were no free seats left. In fact, it attracted even more students than the room could afford. The seminar, led by ISSS International Advisor Soohyun Kim, also featured Carol Hornibrook, a researcher from the Department of Nuclear and Quantum Engineering. Three international students, Lê Hồng Anh, Mengge Li, and Woo Seok Jung, shared their personal experiences and advised students on their concerns regarding the academics at KAIST.
The students had one common concern; “I think that in KAIST, you just study and study all the time for grades, and if you want to have a life, grades are gone. I am wondering how we could balance, so that we could have a proper university life,” said Shubhranil Sengupta, a sophomore mechanical engineering student. The students who attended the seminar were from diverse backgrounds; for example, a PhD student and mother of two children confessed that she had a hard time balancing between family and studies.
Despite the title of the seminar, it did not offer any secret tips on how to get higher grades. Instead, the speakers shared their views and approaches on studying habits and work-life balance. Li, in particular, introduced her studying strategy, which included the use of monthly calendars. The duplicated calendar included academic-related tasks on one calendar and social-related goals on the other. The days that turned out to be “wasted” were marked by slashes. The key part included measuring the time spent on studies, by which she could determine how effective her studies were. Based on the calendars, she could analyze which methods were useful and which were better to be avoided.
Lê reflected on the importance of self-control: “One thing that I want to emphasize is discipline. Be very strict to yourself and practice a healthy lifestyle.” Considering how the majority of students manage their studies, which, in simple words, is the “study late and wake up late” lifestyle, she also marked the necessity of developing a personal productivity style.
The third panel member, a Korean who spent his school years in Singapore, destroyed the stereotypes about Korean students among the internationals. He said, “I know a lot of friends who go [to the library], and they stay there until it’s very late, but that doesn’t mean that they study at all. Their efficiency isn’t very great, and that is why they are there.” He advised internationals to not compare themselves to Korean students, and instead to focus on developing personal standards.
Hornibrook compared her life attitude with project management: “You have to follow your heart, right? Everybody says that. But it is so much better when you follow your heart towards the money.” In her presentation, she advised the use of long-term planning for a semester, which, as she explained, would give a clear vision of how much one has to focus.
Besides the study-life balance, gender- and minority-related issues were discussed, too. As the seminar came to an end, a Q&A session where confidential questions were asked was held. Students noted that despite the different expectations from the seminar, they still were not disappointed. At the very least, participants were able to eat some pizza.