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.

3 thoughts on “Adventures in Korea – Week 3 – Settling in

  1. Hello Oliver, we would be delighted to get recent news from you. I guess that as Korea will be closed over the next week you may have a bit of time to give fresh news about our favorite adventurer to your beloved family who already miss you at least a bit. Hope this message finds you well, best, Thib

    Like

  2. Tu pourrais nous faire un message. Ici tout le monde s’inquiète pour toi et personne ne comprend pourquoi tu ne donnes pas de nouvelles. De petites nouvelles seraient donc hautement appréciées.
    Bises,
    Thib

    Like

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