Started in 2009 by the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, the KAIST English as a Foreign Language (EFL) program has become a familiar address for all students seeking ways to improve their English. This semester, KAIST is very excited to welcome five new faculty members to the EFL program: Professor Annie Im, Jason Lapointe, Paul Sanchez, Sunmin Park and Petra Glithero. The KAIST Herald got the chance to meet up with one of them to learn more about her first impressions of KAIST students and its campus life.
Can you please start by briefly introducing yourself to our readers?
Hello! My name is Petra Glithero and I come from the South of England, UK. Korea has been my home for the past eight years and most of that time I’ve lived in or around Daejeon.
What first brought you to Daejeon and later motivated you to apply for your current position at KAIST?
I chose my first job in Korea back in 2006 based on the merits of the job, not the location. Of course I was also curious about the city itself, with its very different culture and lifestyle from that of my hometown. I follow a lot of EFL and applied linguistic websites for research purposes and that was where I found the posting for my current visiting professor position at KAIST. Although I was satisfied with my previous job,I wanted to challenge myself, especially since I know KAIST to be a very prestigious institute with some of the brightest young minds in Korea.
When you first came to KAIST, what were you most excited or curious about?
Twenty-first-century expectations, evolving technology and the demands and abilities of today’s students means educational institutions need to cater for various learning styles. KAIST has embraced these changes by implementing reforms in learning and teaching through Edu 3.0., which I was very curious to learn about. I would love to have the opportunity to participate in this innovative program.
Has there been anything in particular that took you by surprise since your arrival?
KAIST seems very much like its own unique community. The campus is quite self-contained, everything we need can be obtained on campus, yet it also has a very international feel. Not that anyone would want to, but you can almost forget that you’re in Korea. The second thing that I noticed was that people seem quite busy: I have seen fewer students relaxing or engaged in casual conversation than other universities in Korea. Another thing that impressed me is the great number of seminars and colloquiums organized on campus every week.
Can you describe what you are currently doing at EFL and maybe tell us about a memorable instance from your first week of teaching?
I am teaching two courses at the moment: one for undergraduate freshmen and the other is mainly for sophomores. Both courses help students adapt to KAIST English lectures and prepare for presentations and conferences. My best memory from the first week is from an interview activity. I have done a similar activity with many students before but this is the first time I received so many answers in pie charts and graphs. It is fascinating to see the science culture of KAIST filtering through to the English classes.
Before we end, do you have any advice or special tips for KAIST students to improve their English skills?
Among the four basic English skills, KAIST students need the most help with their speaking. I always encourage my students to actively use the language not only in the classroom but also in daily conversations and any other opportunities they happen to have. KAIST students have the opportunity to sign up for the English Clinic service to receive special one-on-one assistance. Most importantly though, I think students should try to relax when they are using English instead of being concerned about whether they are making any mistakes. Fluency and the ability to convey the overall meaning is much easier to achieve and, in my opinion, much more important than producing grammatically flawless sentences.
The KAIST Herald staff would like to inform its readers that the print edition of the following interview has been published with errors. The web edition appearing below is the corrected and edited version. We apologize for the errors in the print edition.