Ulsan Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) in other words a University on the other side of the planet in South Korea. Sounded like an adventure with lots of opportunity and more exciting than staying in a lab in Scotland. I was worried about being lonely, what I would actually achieve during my internship and not being able to read.
I arrived after the lengthiest travelling I have ever done, where I will be honest I had to ease myself into acceptance of what I was actually doing, to find my final leg was to be delayed. No travel to Ulsan until the next day and on a bus, great. I found a hotel and was exposed to some very bright lights in a small town next to the airport. In every other city the lights are just the same neon and bright… seriously cannot recommend Korea cities to anyone with epilepsy. However UNIST was plonked in the middle of scenic mountains and quite isolated, the more I think of it every city seems to be surrounded by mountains and built up there for the convenience of flat land. I do have to say if you enjoy hiking it would be an ideal place to go.
a typical Korean city street, just imagine some of the lights strobing.
Picture of my remote and very humid campus, nice views though!
As for my concerns I had applied through a programme and knew there was going to be native English speakers there so I was aware I had the propensity to have a conversation. I later found out a separate programme was running that meant there were more English speakers who became my travel partners on weekend excursions around Korea. My first couple of weeks in the lab were quite slow, not sure if they did not have much for me to do or were checking if they had to idiot proof the lab for me. Largely the point of working in a lab this summer was to decide if this is the career path for me, have something to write on my CV for future applications, and hopefully gain some lab skills. As time progressed I did get more responsibilities and was tasked with getting the preliminary data for their future experiments or repeating their experiments for more data. I am certainly more confident and capable in a lab environment which will be useful at the very least in my honours project. And finally being illiterate sucks.
My workplace for eight weeks
What I learned along with the lab skills is that the campus food should not be considered Korean food. Their 7 eleven the other option for food is the most visited one in Korea. I would highly recommend Korean traditional food. Someone should open a Korean BBQ restaurant in Scotland immediately, a suggestion would be to raise the table so no one else cooks their knee on the grill which sits in the centre of the table, I might have done that… Some Koreans were worried that they were only known for North Korea and a trip to the DMZ shed some insight on their thoughts on unification. The older generation seems to desire it, the younger seems disenfranchised believing it would damage the country’s economy and would rather deal with their country’s problems before taking on another’s.
A military base at the DMZ reads: “End of separation, beginning of unification”
I think Korea should be known for beautiful beaches, temples, palaces, and scenery; their worldwide players like Hyundai, Kia, Samsung, LG to name a few; drinking cannot recommend the beer but their soju is cheap and goes down easy; and partying everyone should experience burning Friday in Seoul where you actively observe work hard play harder or one of their plentiful festivals for fireworks, water and even mud!
Boryeong Mud Festival
Thank you Principal’s Go Abroad Fund for making this experience possible.