Technology has changed our lives for the better in many ways, and behind these developments were always people in engineering. Ewha’s College of Engineering has also been sparing no efforts since its establishment in 1996 to create a place for promising women in engineering to get the best education possible. Among such efforts include giving students the chance to expand their experience and education by studying abroad as an exchange student. Ewha Voice interviewed two students majoring in engineering: Kim Eun-ji and Kim Yeong-eun, who shared their experiences of studying engineering overseas.
Exchange student in Finland, visiting student in Germany
Kim Eun-ji, a senior from the Department of Electronic and Engineering, went to two different universities: Karelia University of Applied Sciences in Finland as an exchange student and Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences in Germany as a visiting student.
Although she was aware that her curriculum, as an engineering major, would be complicated if she went to the exchange program, Kim could not give up as she had always wanted to participate in an exchange program and live overseas. So she decided to go for a year instead of a half year. In this way, her curriculum was put off for an entire year, instead of being messed up.
The biggest differences between exchange students and visiting students are the application process and the tuition costs. For exchange students, the school undertakes the admission procedures on behalf of the students, whereas visiting students have to complete the admission process on their own. Also, while exchange students pay tuition for Ewha, visiting students pay tuition for the school they visit. Kim recommended going to Germany as a visiting student because not only is the tuition for German universities much cheaper than that of Ewha, but also visiting students are treated the same as exchange students in Germany.
Kim chose to go to Finland for new experiences. She had always wanted to see the aurora borealis with her own eyes, and her dream came true.
“Winter sports are very popular and developed in Finland because it snows a lot,” Kim said. “So the students can rent skates and ski equipment at school. I enjoyed a lot of winter sports when I was in Finland. However, I mostly took online classes because vaccines were not introduced at the moment. Since the sun sets at 2 or 3 p.m., it was always dark after class, which was a unique experience.”
Kim also shared an episode where a professor brought coffee and chocolate for the students during break time. She recalled it was a very unique cultural experience for her because she never had such an experience in Korea. One of her friends was invited to the professor’s house and spent some time there. Even though the friend was attending university in Europe, it was the first time to be invited to the professor’s house.
When Kim was in Germany, she traveled a lot because all transportation was free of charge in the state with a student card. According to her, a unique feature of the academic system in Germany is that there was no attendance score, and grades were given only for exams or experiments. Moreover, there was a separate application period for the exam, so if the students did not apply for the exam at that time, they did not receive a grade.
Kim said her experience as an exchange student will have a few impacts on her career. However, now she now understands why people say that one’s perspective towards the world has expanded after studying overseas. Taking time off from school is common among college students in Korea. So even though participating in the exchange program would not help her career, she thought it would be better to go on exchange during the time she took off.
“Many students may be worried about low TOEFL scores or GPA, but just apply because it is not too late to decide after being selected,” Kim said. “However, remember that you cannot always be happy. It is difficult to live as a foreign student and handle various tasks alone in an environment with an unfamiliar language. Nevertheless, if participating in an exchange program is on your mind, just try it. It is certainly worth it.”
Explore your field of interest beyond the borders
Kim Yeong-eun, a senior majoring in Computer Science and Engineering at Ewha, is currently one month in on an exchange at Roskilde University (RUC) in Denmark.
Like many students, Kim had her own criteria when choosing a country to study abroad. She looked for a place where she would feel safe, and could travel around easily, all while being able to communicate in English. This narrowed her options to the Northern European area, among which countries she eventually ended up going to Denmark.
Since her arrival at RUC, Kim discovered a place that provides engineering students with various equipment, which she found pretty impressive.
“There is a lab called Flexlab, and it houses pretty much every kind of equipment used in projects that you can imagine,” she explained. “There are Arduinos, VR devices, drones, graphic cards and more. I have not gotten a chance to use them just yet, but they seem very helpful.”
Kim is taking three classes for the spring semester at RUC: Subject Module Project in Computer Science, Subject Module Course 2: Software Development, and Subject Module Course 3: Interactive Digital Systems.
The Software Development class caught Kim's attention because of the fact that she is learning what she had already learned at Ewha but in English, and in a whole new country.
Kim also mentioned that the curricula at RUC are very different from those at Ewha, allowing her to garner a broader experience.
The project class, Subject Module Project in Computer Science, was also something Kim found very new to her. Like graduation projects at Ewha, students choose a theme themselves and work on a project for the whole semester. Everyone attending RUC is required to participate, but for computer science and engineering major students, they usually build a system or study algorithms based on the topic that they settled on.
Denmark has recently lifted COVID-19 restrictions allowing students like Kim to have in-person classes without masks, like before the pandemic.
“I am very satisfied with my time here at RUC,” Kim said. “But overall, I can assure you that having an exchange experience per se is worthwhile. Classes abroad, in my opinion, offer more opportunities to do team projects. So, if you put your heart in and engage yourself in the academic activities here, I am sure it will serve as a merit when you go back to Korea.”
On the days Kim does not have classes, she likes to go out to the city with her friends or to the school library to study. As she considers herself to be an introverted person, and because it has only been a month since she started school, she has yet to make new school friends and usually spends time with other exchange students. However, Kim says that because people there seem very welcoming, making new friends will not be a challenge at all if you are a little more outgoing.
“I want to tell students who are holding back from going on exchange programs because they feel they are too late that it is never too late,” she emphasized. “If you have even the slightest urge to study abroad, I advise you to take the chance and go. I myself am in my last semester at Ewha and I sure am glad that I came to RUC.”