Adventures in Korea – Week 11 – Akrasia

Third definitely-less-weekly post on my stay in Korea.

Let’s not beat around the bush. I promised my family I would update weekly, aaaaand I haven’t updated for a few weeks. They’re probably very disappointed in me. I don’t know, I delete their mails without reading them. They’ve probably disowned me by now. Getting back to France might be difficult.

Okay, seriously though: I’m sorry I don’t update more regularly. I’m not going to burst into tears and list of the terribly hard things I’m working on, but the basic fact is: sometimes I’m motivated, sometimes I’m not. When I do get a burst of doing-productive-things energy, I have a long pile of homework and projects (both personal and school-related) to spend it on, and by the time they’re done I rarely have any productivity left for writing. Sorry.

Anyway, Korea! It’s great! Let’s talk about it instead.

Culture

Yes! Because I’ve stayed in Korea for months! So I know a lot about Korea now, right?

Um…

Okay, here’s the thing. I haven’t really been exposed to Korean culture. I’ve passed up on Korean culture classes, and I don’t go to the International Lounge’s events (and honestly, they all sound really boring). But more importantly, I haven’t met many Korean people; those I met didn’t speak English terribly well, and mostly wanted to talk to me to get some practice. The international people I know are American and Chinese. All my classes are with French students.

Beyond that… I don’t really have any good excuse. I’ve never been very interested in most cultural things, be it from my own culture or others’. I don’t do tourism. I guess if you expected to get great insights on Korea from this blog, you’re going to be disappointed. I’m here to learn and to program.

Learning

I’ve said in my previous post that I felt the pedagogy of the classes I was in was terrible. Let’s expand on that.

First off, some background. Epitech students come from everywhere and can have wildly different profiles, but they usually have two common characteristics:

  • They’re complete morons who have no sense for the value of money (seriously, why are we spending 9.000€ a year on this again?).
  • They are very smart people who completely despise the traditional education system, and are ready to spend ridiculous amounts of money to get any form of education that deviates for it but is still recognized by the rest of society.

As an Epitech student, my perspective is the following: institutionalized school is insane, and systematically dysfunctional (I’m using systematic in its literal “these problems from the nature of the system” sense here).

There’s probably a thousand dysfunctions in the school system, and I’ll probably talk about them all eventually, but I’ll keep my point simple for now: schools are incentivized to look like they’re teaching things over making actual learning happen.

I don’t think schools are even really necessary anymore, except for child keeping. We’ve had the printing press for centuries now, and the internet for decades. The world’s best encyclopedias are at out fingertips for free. I’m not speaking theoretically: I’ve learned more this year from internet tutorial than from hours of listening to teachers (most computer science teachers rip off internet tutorials anyway).

I think that the problem is, essentially, that we’re afraid of doing nothing. We’re afraid of telling kids “There’s a computer, there’s an internet connection, now do something productive” and sit back without adding twenty layers of rules and paperwork for the kid to objectively prove how productive he was.

And I say that knowing that my brother spends every free day he has browsing the internet all day. Just telling kids to do what they want isn’t enough, you need to motivate them. There’s a whole domain of science out there that we’re not really exploring, because we keep relying on the crutch of “Sit on this chair until you’re allowed to go, do your homework, do the tests and the exams or you’ll be punished”, and using as a substitute for proper motivation.

I dunno. This is kind of a disjointed rant; I’ll try to structure it better later.

Programming

I’ve joined a new EIP group called Molecule. We’re working on a set of extensions to the Atom editor to make it into a full IDE. This is kind of the quintessential computer science project: we’re working with programmer tools on a programmer tool to make into a better programmer tool. Not exactly ending world hunger here.

Regardless, it’s fun so far. I’ve only been working with them for two weeks, and I’ve been starting slow, but I like the problems I’m working on.

I’ve also started to learn OpenGL, thanks to a great book on the subject I found online.

OpenGL is… a thing, it’s not exactly a library or even an API, it’s an API specification. The idea is, there’s an institution called the OpenGL Architectural Review Board which says “For version 3.8 OpenGL implementation must have feature X and feature Y”. Then, graphic card vendors design their next GPU to have feature X and Y, as well as drivers for your CPU to call these features; then they say “our next GPU MegaGraphicForceX is OpenGL 3.8-compatible”.

Anyway, OpenGL is an API used by most platforms (Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android, IOS, etc) and virtually all graphic cards for 3D rendering. Knowing how to use it is basically mandatory to design a game engine, which is one my current projects.

I’m also doing a few video game projects with Unity as part of the university course.

Conclusion

I have things to do and there is no conclusion. See you later.

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Adventures in Korea – Week 3 – Settling in

It’s been two weeks since my first post, but I feel like I’ve been here for months. A lot of stuff has happened, and I’m still trying to find my legs.

Let’s go at it by themes:

The dormitory

The first question on my mind after I arrived was “Do I stay in the dormitory, or do I go rent a flat?”. I’ve already exposed some of the trade-offs last post, but I’ll repeat the gist:

  • The dormitory is pretty far away from everything in the campus
  • The rooms are kind of under-furnished
  • The curfew is pretty strict
  • On the other hand, the rooms are relatively spacious (30m², I think?), and pretty cheap (around 600$ for 4 months, without the meal plan).

A lot of students have chosen to go rent an apartment near East End. I’m told they can be pretty cheap too, if you share them with other people. In the end, I decided to stay with the dormitory, mostly for the price and the convenience of always being in the campus, but I’m still not sure it was the right call. I shall never know for certain, within my lifetime.

Eh, whatever. At least there’s hot water in the shower all the time.

I don’t have much of a night life, so the curfew doesn’t bother me too much (the most annoying part is the people who go from room to room at night to check up on you, but that’s extremely minor).

Sleeping

I don’t know why, I still don’t feel like I have a fixed sleeping scheduled. Maybe because I’ve been running around a lot, maybe because I go to sleep at unreasonable hours, or maybe something else.

Whatever the cause, I’m still trying to find my feet, sleeping regularly and getting enough energy every day to do everything that’s asked of me.

At least I have pillows and sheet now. Sleeping on a bare mattress with a winter coat as a pillow gets old fast.

Moving around

The campus is still ridiculously large. I’ve bought a bike to get around faster, and it does help some, but getting from place to place is still a hassle (especially uphill). It means you have to actually wonder “Would I rather go to place X to study before class, or go to place Y to meet people and talk with friends, or go back to the dormitory to pick up the notebook I forgot there?”; you can do all three, but then you’ve spent 45 minutes running around doing nothing.

This really annoys me. I like having options open to me, I like being able to make impulsive choices like “Go at place X to see if there are interesting people” on a whim, and having long distances between every place of interest kills me.

Also, having to spend 5 minutes walking between the place I sleep and the place I eat breakfast is pain in the ass too.

Eating

The food continues to be a problem.

Like I said last post, I’m not a fan of Korean food. The thing is, right now I have a few select meals in every cafeteria on the campus that I know I can tolerate. So the trade off I’m facing is <A> Keep eating the same ~5 meals every day forever or <B> buy a bunch of meals that I end up not liking at all (or not being able to eat) and be hungry half the time.

Also, I’m way behind on discovering the restaurants around the East Gate market. We did find an awesome pizzeria!

Classes

After a few weeks of uncertainty, and sending mails to teachers, I am now permanently registers to the following classes:

  • Basic Korean
  • Computer Graphics
  • 3D Game Basics
  • Game Project 1
  • Intro to World Economy

I also briefly tried Human-Computer-Interaction (I liked the subject, not the teacher) and Introduction to Conceptual Programming; which turned out to be an introduction to Python (I totally thought this was going to be about Concepts and the philosophy of Programming; talk about fake advertising).

Overall, I’m not impressed with the lessons and general pedagogy so far. Classes like this remind me why I signed up for Epitech, and why my first months there were the most intense and liberating time I’d ever spent in school.

The teachers lack imagination and spend their time reading their powerpoint, which means nobody listens to them because reading the powerpoint is way faster. The Game Project lessons approach building a game as a checklist of tropes and common gameplay elements you need to put in your Design Document like a good little bureaucrat.

Here’s the thing: making a game is not about having an idea, and then trying to fit that idea into neat little boxes that a University Teacher has heard of. Making a game is first and foremost a logistics problem. You have a team, your team has a limited amount of time, money, motivation, and brainpower to invest into your game, you have to figure out how to use them as best as possible, while wasting as little effort as you can.

This is where design philosophies like “Release early, release often”, and “Put out a demo as fast as you can” come from. The ideas you write on your game design documents can be useful, but every time you write one of them, you must do so with the awareness that implementing each of these ideas is going to take time, effort and motivation, even if the idea turns out to be worthless in practice.

Anyway, my point is, the Game Design class mentions none of that. Instead, it’s just a nice bullet-pointed list of video game clichés that you might want to include with your super original game design idea that your group came up with by brainstorming for ten minutes in a classroom. When people say that college sucks and doesn’t prepare you for the real world? This is exactly the kind of bullshit they’re talking about.

I’m not qualified to talk about the economy class, and the Korean class is mostly okay. Overall, my feeling so far is always “like the subjects, don’t like the teachers and the pedagogy”.

The intranet system

The Keimyung intranet system can be extremely confusing for newcomers, especially since its translation is somewhat flawed.

You start off from Keimyung’s main webpage. The page is in Korean, and has an (incomplete) English version, both of which mostly include external information about the school that no-one cares about: the list of courses, info about the student exchange programs, it’s basically advertising for the school that you already read somewhere else.

If you click on the “Edward” link on the Korean version, you’re taken to the Keimyung intranet proper. The first page you see asks you to input your student ID and password (plus other manipulations, if you’re connecting for the first time). Be careful, there’s also a sneaky box that asks you if you want to connect in Korean or in English, and always defaults to Korean. It’s extremely annoying because it affects a bunch of pages, and there’s no way to change it without logging out then logging back in (and I still haven’t found the “log out” button).

Anyway, once you’re connected, you have access to bunch of information in Korean, even if you’ve selected English. This is going to be a trend whenever you use this intranet: you’re bombarded with a bunch of information that you don’t need and can’t understand.

Anyway, the only important parts are the first two tabs on the top, “EDWARD System” and “Teaching / Learning”. “EDWARD System” floods you with even more information, some of which you might need at the beginning of year.

“Teaching / Learning” is the one you’ll be using all year. It leads you to the CTL. Yes, the CTL. No, I have no idea what this acronym means either.

The CTL

The CTL is where you get most information you need on your current courses. The main page lets you log in and change the language, and floods you with yet more info written in Korean that you don’t care about anyway.

By the way, have I mentioned that most links open in a pop-up, and you can’t actually select “Open in new tab” for most of them? Yeah, screw academic websites. Times like this, you realize how above average the Epitech intranet actually is.

Anyway, at the bottom-left of the page, hidden in the flood of useless info, is a list of the courses you’ve registered on; clicking on one of them leads you to the CTL proper.

Again, in can be hard to navigate the available information to find what you need, especially since the content of each tab may change depending on the teacher.

The gist of it is, 99% of the time you only need to access two tabs: the “Classroom” one and the “Study Activity” one. Those let you access past lectures, assignments, and other material you need to study the course. The other tabs are mostly static administrative information.

Anyway, if there’s only one thing you have to memorize to use the intranet correctly, it is: always go to the CTL, always use the “Classroom” and the “Study Activity” tabs, and ignore everything else.

The phone app

There’s also a semi-mandatory phone app, that you need to register you attendance in class. It’s pretty minimalist, and includes a handy timetable that updates without you needing to do anything.

I have nothing against the phone app. It’s straightforward to use, and does what I need it to do. Although the attendance checking part is a bit unclear, and it can be ambiguous whether or not it work; but I haven’t had real problems with it yet.

Sports

Not much to say here.

I’ve never been a sports person. I try to exercise, but it requires a certain, I don’t know, sustained effort from me. It’s not something I do naturally.

I’ve had a lot of my mind since I arrived in Korea; I’ve stopped exercising, and I just recently made myself get back into a routine.

On that note, there’s a pretty cool sports room in the basement of our dormitory. So that’s another point in favor of staying.

Advice for future students

  • Take identity-sized photos with you. The photo booths are ridiculously expensive here.
  • Do sports!
  • If you’re going to take an apartment outside the dormitory, try to discuss it with your colleagues, and maybe find other people who want to move in together. The apartments for one person are not worth moving from the dormitory.
  • If possible, try to find different offers before going in person to a real estate broker. As a foreigner, negotiating will be harder for you, so take your time and be sure to know what the alternate offers are.
  • Get familiar with the intranet fast. If you have any doubt, read the guide above again.

That’s it for this week. Next week I’ll post about culture, the East Gate market, and the bane of all nerds everywhere: socializing.

Adventures in Korea – Week 1

Alright, let’s do this. This is a series on my year as an exchange student in Korea. I’m mostly writing this for two audiences:

  • My family, to let them know how I’m doing and sparing myself from actually talking to / interacting with them in any way.
  • Future Epitech students, and by extension, any student intending to spend a semester/year to Keimyung university.

Both of these audiences are French, but I’m going to write it all in English for no reason anyway. Learn to read English, Marc!

My background

I’m a French 21 years old student from Paris. I am starting my 4th and second-last year of Computer Science in Epitech.

As part of the standard Epitech cursus, I am to spend said 4th year in a partner school in a foreign country. I applied to Keimyung, a multi-discipline school in Daegu, Korea, and was accepted. I don’t speak a word of Korean.

Again, for anyone lost: Epitech is my home school. Keimyung is the school I’m currently studying at. Daegu is the city I’m in; it’s the fourth biggest city of South Korea; way South of Seoul, the capital city.

Still following? Well then, let me begin my tale. It’s starts a bit over a week ago, in Paris…

The big day

Today is Wednesday, August 30; my flight starts at 1:00pm GMT+2, and arrives at Thursday, August 31, 7:00am GMT+9, a 11 hour flight. And yes, that is a lot of jetlag. More on that later.

I’m fairly excited when I arrive. I’m in Korea! The airplane pilot tells us, “Welcome to Seoul”, and I think I’m nearly there. It’s awesome!

Except… I’m not quite there, and the announce is a bit of a lie. We’re actually in Incheon. Just like Paris, Seoul doesn’t actually have airports (that I’m aware of); we actually landed something like 30km away from Seoul. And the thing is, this seems obvious in retrospect, but when you’re there, everything around you is new, you can’t read half the signs, and there’s nobody to tell you “By the way, you’re not actually in Seoul yet, you’re in Incheon, you need to fix that before you go looking for the Seoul train station”… well, it took me some time to catch up. After a small hour of stumbling around the airport, picking up my luggage, and staring at exasperated station agents who keep telling me to go somewhere else for info… I finally understand that I need to take the Seoul-Incheon express AREX train, which can get me to the Seoul train station in roughly an hour.

I buy a ticket for the next express, which is scheduled 9:20am, and settle in for some waiting. The express itself is a very nice train, with lot of room, seats, and TVs broadcasting news and cultural documentaries (think intercity train, not subway). The first documentary I see is about Dodko, a South Korean island colonized by Japan in the early 20th century. The documentary lists several documents that prove the island is a legitimate Korean territory, then talks about how the Allies made Japan surrender it (and other stolen/colonized territory) after World War II. I’m… not quite sure what to make of that? Japan imperialism isn’t something you think about very often in France, but I guess it’s more of a sore subject for Koreans.

Moving on, I arrive to the train station. After roughly half an hour of fumbling around, I manage to issue my ticket for Daegu without making too much of an ass of myself, and find a nice spot in the station to… well, wait. It is 10:30am, I have everything I need, and the train I reserved online leaves at 2:00pm. I had intentionally intended the 3h gap as a buffer, and time to do tourism in Seoul, and while I really don’t regret giving myself the margin for error (I didn’t need that much time, but I could have), it was silly of me to imagine I’d be doing any tourism.

By that point, it is 3:30am in France. I haven’t slept much in the plane. I’m dragging four full suitcases and bags around. I am in no state to do any tourism. I spend the time in a zombie-like state of almost sleeping, then falling off to the side or hearing a loud noise and immediately waking up. It’s kind of hellish.

Oooh, you're one of those tricky guys who look for alt-text in images, aren't you? Well then.

I didn’t take any photo in the train station, so here’s one from Google Image.

Also, for some reason, I’m seeing a lot of people in military uniforms. Not patrolling, just taking the train. Not sure if this is normal, or it means the army is mobilizing because of the North Korea crisis; but it’s kind of funny to see people in camo fatigues sitting around with their luggage.

Anyway, the train arrives, I’m anxious for a few minutes because the signs are confusing and I’m not sure it’s the right train; then I get in the train, and every so often I’m anxious that I’m going to miss the Daegu station because I can’t always read the Korean station names… By the way, I’m being pretty unkind to the Korean transport infrastructure here. While things were pretty hard to navigate for me as a foreigner, the signs were all labeled both in Korean and in English. I’d expect a Korean to have a much harder time navigating around in France that I had navigating in Korea.

Adventures in Daegu

At 5:36pm, I arrive in Daegu. Awesome! I’m nearly there!

Well, not quite. I still have to get to Keimyung university. It takes around half an hour to my sleep-deprived brain to navigate the train station, and find the subway access. Keep in mind, the further from the airport we go, the less English-friendly our surroundings get; although there still a surprising amount of English everywhere; even some of the ads are translated.

Once I get to the subway, I meet the first real puzzle level in my adventure: how do I buy a ticket? It turns out to be a bit harder and convoluted than you might think. Although, note that I could have bypassed the entire level by just using the subway without paying, but (1) I don’t want to get arrested or fined before I’ve even spent a night in Korea, (2) it’s unethical and I’m kind of a pussy.

This level has several obstacles:

  • I don’t understand what the different price ranges of the vending machines represent
  • Up until now I’ve paid everything with my international credit card. The machines ask for Korean cash, which I don’t have.
  • The ATM machines won’t accept my card for some reason. (I’m later told that Korean ATM machines like Mastercard and hate Visa; still not sure how to deal with that)
  • Nobody speaks English worth a damn; good luck asking for help. (I’m being unfair, one guy did help me understand the ticket system)

Anyway, the solution turned out to be: ask a subway employee to take me to the closest currency exchange bureau; trade some of the European cash I wisely took with me before the flight for Korean wons; buy the cheapest ticket at a vending machine (don’t worry, it’ll last you until Keimyung); then navigate the subway (pretty easy, you only need one line change) until you get there.

So, there I am, at the Keimyung station. Awesome! I’m basically there! Well… not quite. I’m actually at the perimeter of the Keimyung campus, but I don’t know it yet. The campus is huge, and only has three entrances, so it takes a bit of walking (and some help from a nearby student) for me to get there. I still need another student’s help to get to the dormitory (seriously, the campus is huge), then I meet an Epitech teammate, who basically speeds me through the remaining process of getting to the right place, getting my room’s keys, finding my room, etc.

I’m there! At last! I collapse on my bed and fall asleep.

I can't find online map of the campus, sadly.

The dormitory village of the campus. The small house at the bottom is where is got my keys after walking for 10 minutes. The furthest building in the background is where I sleep.

Orientation day

Today is Friday, September 1, and it’s Orientation Day! I actually missed the Epitech-specific Orientation Day, where they tell us punks about how this is a different kind of school, there are rules, you can’t just decide you don’t want to go to the classes or do whatever you want whenever, etc. I also missed the first round of course selection, which means one of the courses I intended to take is now full and I can’t register to it. More on that later.

Anyway, Orientation Day goes about like you’d expect. We get the “Keimyung is awesome and brings happiness and progress and puppies to the world” video, the “Don’t make me fetch you kids at the police station again like last year” speech, some administrative deadlines, info about campus activities we’d might want to join, etc. We’re also introduced to the International Lounge.

The Lounge is where I’m expecting to spend most of my time this year (work and arcades aside). It’s a hub for international students from all over the world to meet, socialize, eat, and take parts in cool activities like going to school and talking to kids about your culture. According to numbers I gathered (which are at least roughly accurate), half of the foreign students are French, and half the French students are from Epitech. We’re all in mostly the same building. Most Koreans I’ve met are really bad at English (including my official Buddy). Basically, if I want to meet someone who isn’t French during my year there, it’s going to be in the Lounge. (or maybe in class)

I spend most of the day setting up in my dormitory and getting my internet fix. I should be doing more paperwork, but by that point I’m way too jetlagged to force myself. Honestly, the next few days after I arrived in Korea were pretty awful. I’m kind of lost and uprooted, I’m tired but I can’t sleep, I’m hungry but I don’t like the food, etc.

Yeah, I don’t like the food. I was never a big fan of any Asian food, and this has not changed so far. Honestly, if it’s not a brand of American junk food (Snickers, Coca-Cola), all bets are off. Some of the sodas have little gelatin cubes in them. Some meals are tasteless, some are way too spicy I can’t bring myself to finish them. The ice-tea they gave us is so sweet that after a while you start wondering whether you prefer to die of dehydratation or diabete. I was told during my research that the dormitory refectory was awful; it is. You wouldn’t want to go there even if it were free.

Anyway, at 6:00pm the Welcoming Party starts at the International Lounge. As a standard nerdy guy who had to overcome social awkwardness through brutal trial and error, and still hates to actively socialize… yeah, it’s pretty boring at first. There’s pizza though, and it’s the least awful thing I’ve eaten since I came here! Eventually I meet a nice Korean girl named Ming who speaks English well enough for actual conversation (also, French insults, somehow). We spend the night talking about computer science and Korean architecture.

By that point, I should probably mention my Buddy. Keimyung matches you with a buddy a few months before you flight; who is supposed to answer your questions, and help you get set up. Mine helped me before my flight, sent me documents I needed to get my visa, and answered some questions for me. But his English is broken, and I haven’t heard from him since I arrived. Normally your Buddy is supposed to pick you up at the station, but it didn’t happen. Since I do need help setting up, I ask Ming for advice and stuff.

Did you order some more fucking jetlag?

On Saturday, I sleep until 1:00pm. I hate my life and stuff. Anyway, my first week-end is mostly boring. I fill out some paperwork, walk around the campus a few times to get an idea of where things are, and I sleep some more (nope, doesn’t work, still tired).

Let’s talk about the paperwork first. I kind of feel cheated by the administration here. We were told to come on August 31. Then we’re given a bunch of deadlines, most of which are “Absolutely fill this by September 5/6 or it’s too late”. And of course the administration is closed on week-ends, which means that you can’t ask any questions/precisions you might have, which means if you were still recovering from jetlag Friday, you only have one or two days to submit all the paperwork they dump on you, while juggling with classes.

And normally, the answer would be “Fine, I just have to make the important decisions long in advance”. Except there are still surprises. For instance, when I asked around on Discord, I was discouraged from renting a flat outside of Keimyung. But nobody told me that:

  • The Keimyung dormitories don’t provide bedsheets, covers, or coat-hangers, which means you have to go buy them yourself (even though you’re obviously not going to bring them back to France). I mean, sheets, I could understand for hygiene reasons, but coat-hangers? You couldn’t provide coat-hangers? Meanwhile, I’m told there’s a bunch of apartments that are fully furnished right around the corner. Which leads me to:
  • The dormitories are a small mountain (or a big hill) away from the Engineering building where most of our courses will take place. The people who rent apartments around Keimyung are closer to the important parts of the campus than we are. (well, the important parts for an Epitech student anyway)
  • Hot water may not be available in the middle of the day. To be fair, this hasn’t been a problem yet.
  • The dormitories has a draconian curfew. Now to be fair, I already knew that, but my perspective on that changed a bit since I arrived. The academy hates fun, because fun is dangerous and someone might get hurt and they might get sued. You can’t go back to your room after 11:30pm, unless it’s a week-end/vacation day and you asked for permission two days beforehand. The doors are locked at 11:30pm, so permission or not, you’ll be locked out. For your safety. Also, don’t even think about drugs, alcohol, gambling, or bringing a girl to your room, or you’re thrown out. Mixed-gender poker night with beer bottles in sight? You’re, like, triple thrown out or something.
The appartment itself is okay.

I know it’s petty, but I’m still annoyed that they didn’t give us anything with our beds. I mean, they know we don’t speak Korean, that we’re going to be disoriented and new to the city, and they’re still expecting us to go find this stuff by ourselves. Kind of a dick move.

I'm like a gas: I expand to fill whatever space is available to me.

The desk is really nice. Lots of little crannies and drawers.

Anyway, renting a flat is sounding better by the day. But I have to find one fast, because the deadline for cancelling my dormitory subscription is tomorrow. Everyone I asked told me that the way to get an apartment is ask my Buddy to negotiate on my behalf with an agency. My Buddy has been pretty unresponsive since I arrived, so I’m going to have to find someone else.

Another inconvenient deadline is choosing a list of courses; they asked us to make preliminary choices months ago, but the only one that actually mattered took place over a window of 12h, during which I wasn’t available. So, yeah, I’m kind of screwed, especially since most of the remaining choices are simply not an option for me. Stiiiill working on that.

Sightseeing

First off, I already said it, I’ll say it again: the campus is seriously big. Maybe not, like, Harvard big, but bigger than any school I’d been to so far. Which tells you that I’ve never been accepted to Harvard. Sniff.

Anyway, I walked around. There’s a presbyterian church at the top of hill that separates the dormitories from the engineering buildings. I took a few photos of the church, and the surroundings. The view is pretty neat.

I also went into the market near East Gate (one of Keimyung’s entrances). I’ll write about it in length in a later post, but the gist is, it was all pretty new to me. I scouted for a few things I’d need to buy on Monday, and I finally completed by life-long dream of getting smashed at Tekken 6 by a 12 years old boy in a Korean arcade. Yeah me!

Not pictured: the huge-ass hill this church is built on.

The Keimyung Church

As the most attentive among you might have noticed, I'm kind of a shitty photographer.

Panorama of the surroundings. I took this photo from next to the church.

Conclusion

The main takeaway so far is that I’m pretty miserable. There’s a lot of little details that add up. I can’t sleep. I don’t have bedsheets. I’m hungry, but I’m skipping meals because I don’t like the restaurants. I have paperwork to submit, but I can’t ask questions. It will all probably be better by next week, when most of the important problems are taken care off, my sleep schedule adjusts, and I start finding restaurants I like.

And overall, this is an awesome experience and I’m super excited to be doing this. I’m meeting new people from completely different culture (an American guy, a girl from Nepal). I went to a Korean arcade! But for this week? Fuck my life.

Advice for future students

This series will have an “Advice” chapter every entry, to sum up what I wish I’d done differently. By the end of the year, I’ll compile it all into a list easily readable by new Epitech students who might go to Keimyung. I’ll probably do a retrospective and stuff. For the record, the current Epitech dossier on Keimyung has some fairly comprehensive, pretty helpful outside data (cost of life, different dormitory offers, etc), but the student blog it links to is basically empty. I intend for this series to replace it.

Advice for all students visiting any foreign country:

  • Do NOT do what I did and schedule your internship to end two weeks before your flight. This will not be enough time for you to prepare everything, especially if you intend to spend time relaxing with your family.
  • Seriously, don’t. Worst mistake I made this year.
  • Remember to take some international plan for your credit card with your bank. You can pay everything by card in Korea. You could also open a Korean bank account once you’re there, but honestly, an international payment plan is just simpler to set up.
  • Prepare some amount of cash. This one saved my life, when I realized the ATM machines wouldn’t accept my Visa card.
  • When scheduling your train and plane tickets, give yourself some wiggle room. You may not need much, but when navigating a novel, confusing environment with nobody speaking your language is much less taxing on your nerves if you know you have plenty of time left. The downside is, you’ll be spending a lot of time in a jetlag-induced zombie state, waiting for your train.
  • Remember to take one or two books you’ve told yourself you should read for years. You won’t actually read them at any point (especially not in your jetlag-induced zombie state), but you’ll feel adequately prepared.
  • When you arrive in the airport, get some local cash as soon as you’re retrieved your luggage. You may find currency exchange offices after you leave the airport, but it’ll obviously be harder that way.
  • Make sure to have sleeping accommodations ready before your flight. You do NOT want to look for a hotel at night, in an unfamiliar environment, where nobody speaks English, while sleep-deprived, while dragging a ton of luggage behind, etc.

Advice for students traveling to Keimyung:

  • Try to arrive one week before the date the university gives you. They’re not giving you any wiggle room. Arriving early means you’re acclimated, and familiar with the environment by the time Keimyung starts raining deadlines on you.
  • On the other hand. Keimyung may not accept you in the dormitories if you arrive a week early. Make sure to have a hotel room or a flat set up. You will need help from your Buddy to handle that stuff. If your Buddy is unresponsive, find someone else who speaks Korean to help you. Ask the school for another Buddy, ask an Epitech teammate’s Buddy for help, etc.
  • If you intend to stay at the dormitories, you will need to bring or buy your own sheets, covers, etc, as well as coat hangers (plus toilet stuff, a toothbrush, shampoo, etc).
  • Go to the International Lounge. The school should organize some sort of event for international students to mingle; go there, meet new people, and have fun.

That’s it for my first few days. Stay tuned for my next post, which will be about settling in and learning to navigate a new environment!

Space Invaders

My first attempt at creating a game. I’ve been working on it for… quite a few years, actually, and it’s still pretty lame. I don’t really care, though, I’m learning a lot as I program it. The main reason it takes so much time is that I keep finding bits of code I did a few years back, being disgusted with them, and deciding do completely redo a section of the engine as a result. I’m pretty confident now, though : most of the engine is less than one year old and the way it’s designed, I shouldn’t have too much trouble developing the rest of the game as I envision it. Which is why I’m pretty confident I’ll actually complete this game in the next few months. In the meanwhile… here’s the current working prototype.

Download on MEGA

Password Delayer

This is an improved version of the second program presented here.

A book I read on work efficiency said that, the more accessible a distraction here, the more your brain consumes energy trying to ignore it. A workaround is to make sure that any distraction has a long delay associated with it, to help the brain consider it more abstract terms. This is what I had in mind when I developed this program, which is the videogamaholic version of the fridge that only opens a certain hours.

It can store any number of passwords ; each password is stored and encrypted on a file, along with data on which hours you can access it at, how long the delay before getting is, etc. While doesn’t exactly make miracles, it does improve my productivity when I use it to store passwords necessary to use my browser, or connect to Steam. It’s still a work in progress, though, there are features I’d like to add and tweaks I’d still like to make.

Also, it’s in French.

Download it on MEGA

Carres Couleur

When learning a new skill, it’s usually good practice to start by practising very simple applications of that skill. This is especially true for programming : most people don’t learn to code by creating their own OS. They start by making a “Hello World” program, then a “More or less” game, and so on.

So when I decided I wanted to learn how to create a game engine, I started with something simple : a screen with moving multicolor squares on it. I actually made two versions of that program : the first was to learn how to update and display an arbitrary number of entities, each with their own behaviour. The second one was to learn how to make a good menu system for a game. So, here they are :

Carres Couleur
Download on MEGA
– Controls : Left click somewhere to create a small square. Right click to create a big square. Press space to delete all the squares. Press Escape to quit.

Carres Couleur 2
Download on MEGA
View Project Repository on Github
– Controls : Controls are level dependant. Try to click on the screen for a while an see what happens. Press space to delete all the squares. Press enter to go to the next level. Press Escape to open a pause menu.
– Text in French.

Two small projects of mine

DatabaseMaker :
A small program I made when learning to use SQLite. I wanted a simple way to make databases without using the DOS console, so I made this. It reads the file CommandFile.txt and executes its lines of commands.
Link : click here.

GenerateurMdP
A slightly bigger program I’m still working on from time to time. It stores a single password, with very basic encryption – not exactly something to use if you’re concerned about the security of what the password protects. The program gives the password on command, but with a two-hours delay as an anti-procrastination mechanism. I use it in combination with Leechblock to avoid impulsive internet surfing, and in combination with another password on Steam and Minecraft to avoid impulsive gaming. It’s far from perfect (it takes a lot of thinking to design oneself even a remotely working anti-procrastination system), but it actually improved my working habits.
The program is in French.
Link : click here.