With the start of the spring semester, a new arrangement has been made in the 2013 KAIST academic calendar. KAIST, unlike other Korean universities, was known for its three-month summer vacation of June, July and August. In return, the winter vacation lasted only for a month. This academic system was convenient for students who took summer semester courses or interned abroad. Also, many Korean students fancied taking an early trip abroad in June when it was still off-season to book a flight and make reservations for hotels. Despite these advantages, I personally prefer the new change of starting a semester one month late. Having experienced the old system last year, I found many inconveniences.
First of all, it is not a good idea to start a semester in February. The weather in Daejeon in February is still quite chilly. There are many welcoming parties and events held in Eoeun-dong especially at the start of the semester. It is obvious that many students shiver and complain as they walk around campus or especially all the way on the “Endless Road” more often than usual. In fact, the cold weather does not help to form a pleasant impression about the start of a new semester. Furthermore, high school graduations are held in February. As a result, freshmen have to miss lectures and lab experiments in order to attend the graduation ceremony held in their hometown. This can cause confusions and inconveniences for the students, professors, and teaching assistants. Starting a new semester in February makes students feel rushed, like hurriedly opening a new door even before having complete closure for the previous semester. It is never too good to have a new beginning without being fully prepared.
In addition, the new academic calendar is more considerate of the actual circumstances in Korea. KAIST finally has a uniform academic calendar with other universities in Korea since all of them start their semesters in March. This increases the opportunities for exchange with other universities. Now KAIST students will have similar time periods in the sense of exams, festivals, and vacation sessions as other college students in Korea. Last year, during midterm exams in March, all the other college students were busy having welcoming parties and membership training programs. Also, during KAIST’s spring festival season, other colleges had their midterm exam sessions. Then, when it was time for the final exams in KAIST, other schools held their festivals. This crisscrossing of events made it difficult for KAIST students to exchange and cooperate with other universities. Moreover, since all the interviews for internships or other evaluations held in Korea are scheduled in accordance with the new system, many KAIST students were inconvenienced in the past. For instance, interviews were held in May, a term in between exams for other college students, but right before the final exam for KAIST students. It is important to consider foremost the circumstances of Korea rather than those of other countries.
Lastly, the distribution of vacation term was inefficient with the old system. In the past, there was three months of summer vacation and one month of winter vacation. However, as of this year, there will be two months of summer vacation and two months of winter vacation. This new distribution helps to spend a better quality vacation. A three-month vacation is too long and a one-month vacation is too short for students, and without a proper vacation plan, the precious vacation time can be readily wasted.
I am sure that by the end of this year’s summer vacation, I will miss the old three-month summer vacation system. However in the long term, I would prefer to have more chances of interacting with other universities during festivals and other events. It will take some time for KAIST students to adjust to the new system, but the new change can surely benefit us all.