KAIST (and KTH*) has kicked our butts the past few weeks, no joke. Midterms crept up on us and I found myself writing the fastest I’ve written in my life with the most brutal hand cramp for two hours straight, and I still didn’t get to all the questions in time! I don’t know how the “real” KAISTians do it, but I have mad respect for them.
Both I and my bearded man converged post-exam-trauma with weak smiles on our faces, both thinking actually that might have gone pretty well – it didn’t go pretty well. It was just borderline fine. That’s what was the toughest. I never thought I would long for KTH, but damn I would have aced anything there doing Korean style exam-bootcamp. Lucky for us there’s still a chance at snagging some good grades, our professors regard improvement and finals as the most important aspect of our courses. So finals are looming and we’re doing our best to pay attention.
And even thought I don’t regard myself as highly as the Korean students, I still feel a sense of KAIST belonging. More so than I’ve done anywhere else (ie IITD or KTH). We joke about KAIST(-eh)** things, we all fight for kimbap***, we pour over our books at all the various campus cafés, we stay in the library till the bit melody of Für Elise is heard over the speakers (indicating that we’re about to be kicked out), we hang out on the beautiful lawns, we have strawberry gatherings, we complain about lack of sleep, we study hard… I am a proud KAIST student, like everybody else here!
Being a student of KAIST is a bit like being a unicorn, we’re depicted as mythical geniuses that disappear into the vast KAIST campuses only to emerge when semesters are safely over. I’ve had businessmen in pristine suits bow low to me even thought I sport(-ed, past tense, I’ve cut off all my hair now) a side cut and shabby jeans. And the sentence – “KAIST(-eh)! Oh, you genius!” Uh… well, I wouldn’t… “You no sleep” no… well, actually that’s true – never really gets old.
This is the first time I’ve stayed on a campus and I enjoy it, I really do. OK so living could be better, it’s a small room but all the necessities (desk, bed, wardrobe, loo, shower) are there. I live with another Swedish girl, from KTH too, we don’t chat too much but we get along. And down the hallway there are joint vacuum-cleaners and washing machines, the only thing I miss is a fridge.
There always seems to be something happening on campus, just today someone stopped us and told us about their movement to shine light on the corruption here in Korea and the pseudo-democracy. Korea became a democracy 1987, democratic Korea is younger than my bearded man. Wow. Yet, they still have a long way to go. This booth with three kids and their exhibitions of pictures from the riots back in the 80’s was just one of the many things happening on our walk back from the CS building to our dormitories, there were some other students singing with a guitar and holding up signs, a baseball game on, a football game, a few gatherings on the lawns, a tent with some sort of Buddhist event etc.
Have I mentioned how beautiful campus is?! Just wow. Before coming I dreamt about the cherry blossoms of spring Japan, hoping that we could get away for a few days… but there was no need, every morning walk from dorm to class we strode through blossoming tree lined lanes. It was beautiful! It only lasted a short while, but things like that usually do.
Also, cherry on the cake, we have lots of cats and geese on campus. They’re all pretty friendly and I do my best to remain friends with the furry and feathery gangs that roam around.
That’s it for me this time, I’ve added some additional photos (hope you like ’em),
*Actually it’s primarily KTH fault I haven’t written the past few weeks, they just got me down so much all I wanted to write about was that. I will, in due time, maybe not here… but somewhere.
**So it’s spelt KAIST, but the Koreans add an –eh on the end. The reason is due to their super logical grammatical system – get this, I learnt Hangeul letters in three days and even thought I have no idea what I’m saying I can pretty much pronounce any word correctly just because I can read. You definitely can’t say that about English…! Or Swedish for that matter.
***Seaweed wrapped rice.