KAIST – Rupsha Bhattacharya, ME1
I began working on my resume and cover letter from October onwards. My cover letter included my previous projects, CGPA and relevant courses I had done so far. I also mentioned my area of research interest. My CV had all the basic sections and was a standard research CV. I had prior research experience under DISA. Also, I was beginning another project under one of my course professors. These along with a decent CGPA might have been crucial in clinching this internship.
The mailing started in late November and continued up to February. I specifically mailed to KAIST in January and got a reply from my professor in early March. I had a Skype interview with my professor for the selection process where he asked me why I wanted to come to Korea and why not go to any university in the US and whether I was interested in pursuing research or not
KAIST has a program called Visiting Student Researcher, through which my professor got me enrolled in KAIST and got me funding. After this, I had to pay an initial registration amount and my internship was confirmed. The rest of the procedure was pretty easy, involving sending some official documents and transcripts.
Whenever I got a response from any professor, I was usually asked to elaborate on my projects and how exactly I came across the professor’s webpage.
On my first day, I was introduced to the various lab members and the projects they were working upon. I was assigned a desk to set up my PC.
My internship was based on designing a prosthetic thumb. I worked on SolidWorks and through CubicCreator I got the parts 3D printed. My knowledge of SolidWorks, and the various courses I had done previously proved helpful during the project.
I used to reach my lab at around 9:30. There wasn’t any fixed time to leave the lab. Sometimes, I left at 6, while some days required slogging till midnight. Apart from some weekends, my work was limited to weekdays only.
The internship required a lot of input, but eventually, it felt nice to achieve my targets. It was really satisfying to stand up to the expectations of the people who had placed their faith in me.
KAIST has an immensely academic-oriented environment. The campus consists of world-class facilities and innumerable places to hang-out, but they still remain usually empty. The people there are mostly involved in their semester-long projects and exams.
About South Korea:
I lived in the faculty guest house of the KAIST Campus. KAIST and Korea itself is a very safe country. I frequently travelled in public transports alone, without facing any safety issues.
Daejeon had a lot of chilling places and clubs. I visited Jeju Islands, Busan, Lotte World, and Seoul (twice, just because shopping in Myeongdong once wasn’t enough :p). I still remember the feeling when I first saw the streets of Myeongdong (shopping heaven :p) and how very badly I wanted to buy every piece of clothing present there. Buying things from local shops was a challenge in itself since the locals didn’t understand English. However, it did give me the ideal opportunity to hone my charade skills.
Even though there were all kinds of facilities and fun places, after a certain point of time, I started feeling the need of talking to people. It is one of the drawbacks of Korea, that people are hesitant to speak in English and are overtly involved amongst themselves. I realized that traveling alone isn’t my cup of tea. I really need someone close to talk to and be physically present with daily. Living alone has its thrills but I really don’t want to face this challenge every day.
What I regret most is that I didn’t make a good Korean friend with whom I could stay connected and probably relive the memories of one of the most wonderful times I have had yet. Oh! I also regret spending a lot on shopping, or wait, do I?
A research internship is a wonderful opportunity to discover yourself and identifying whether you can develop a liking for the environment and lifestyle of a foreign university. All the top-ranked universities have pretty safe campuses, so living or travelling alone shouldn’t really be a matter of concern for anyone.