My experience at Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology Global Internship program

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My research opportunity starts with the announcement of an internship program at the city of Gwangju, located in South Korea. My advisor Diomadson saw the GIP flier and noticed me about it. Then, I thought that it could be a great opportunity to enhance my curriculum. With the chance, I started to provide the necessary documents and essays about myself, including academic achievements, personal experiences, and grades. The program details can be found here. The biggest challenge encountered in the registration process was obtaining an English certificate, since many proficiency certificates may take a long time to be got depending on the exam type, and I needed the result fast because I noticed the opportunity late. Luckily, the TOEIC exam is well accepted in a lot of Korean universities as I heard, and it is relatively fast and cheap to obtain its certificate. I recommend new participants to try to do a proficiency exam as soon as possible to avoid deadline issues, but if you are tight on time, TOEIC is a good option to meet this constraint.

I have found many reasons to apply for this program, among them, Korea is a well-developed country in the technology industry which is very interesting for my major. I thought that it could bring me new opportunities and develop my network. The other main reason is to visit my Korean girlfriend, which I had the happiness to meet during an exchange program in the USA.

In the application process, it is required to choose a laboratory where you will be developing your work for two months. From there, I tried to search the laboratory that best fitted with my academic experiences. The ICSL lab seemed to be the best choice, the fields of study are very related to my laboratory in Brazil. So I decided to email the lab professor to assure that it would be a good option. The following paragraph illustrates the email sent and its response.

Dear professor Lee,

I am currently a senior undergraduate Brazilian student doing BS in computer engineering and I have known about the GIST GIP program through my advisor. At the GIP application form, it is required to choose two laboratories from GIST to have a possible internship period. I have found that your laboratory “Integrated Circuits and Systems Laboratory” is similar to the laboratory I am doing research at my home university (UFRN).
~Personal experience details was put here~
I would like to kindly ask if my background has something to offer for your laboratory or if you could point other laboratories that I could best fit with during this GIP internship program.
Thank you for your time and attention,

Response:

Dear Mr. Yang Tavares,
Thank you for your interest in our lab. Your experience will be a quite good match to our lab research field. Hope you do have a good time here.

Here comes my second advice: Emailing the professor of your chosen lab can show if your profile matches the lab requirements. In some sense, it can also improve your chances of being accepted. From the beginning, I could realize that choosing this lab would bring a great experience for me.

After I finished the registration process, I waited a few months to receive the fortunate notice of acceptance. The GIP program counts with a very helpful crew that will answer your questions any time and will provide you support for your travel, stay and other related issues regarding the internship period (Honorable mention to Jaeha Kim). Later I heard that there were about 1216 applicants to this program and only 40 were selected (20 men and 20 women), this information was another reason for my celebration.

When the day to travel to Korea finally came, I was very excited to reach the GIST university as soon as possible. The funny thing is, Brazil is one of the farthest places from Korea, both countries are apart 12 hours on the fuse hours. Consequently, I had to face a 35 hours trip, with three planes, two of them was eleven hours long (considerably tiring). My point is, you have a great advantage if you live closer to Korea. My roommate, for example, he lives in Vladivostok and took a plane of only two hours to reach there. After arriving in Korea, I spent around 4 days with my girlfriend meeting Seoul area.

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This place is one of the Korean palaces, it is a very famous tourist spot. You are able to rent traditional clothes and take pictures around there!

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One of the structures located on the Seoul tower mountain.

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Traditional Korean barbecue. The Ssam is a lettuce wrap with meat which is very delicious, the traditional sauce is also amazing.

Eventually, the first day of the internship program came, so I took a 3 hours bus from Seoul to Gwangju. There, I could meet all the other GIP participants, the program supervisors, and my lab mentor. A lab mentor is a person designated by the lab chief (professor) to assist new lab researchers by showing how to proceed with daily duties and equipment management. Luckily I had a great mentor who introduced me to all the other lab mates, showed where I would work and what I should do. He also helped with my dorm issues. For example, one of the dorm attendants was not able to speak English, and I realized after that, still many people in Korea are not able to do so (different from what I expected). Anyway, I could always find someone on the street to help me if I needed to. My lab mentor also introduced me to the lab professor. On that day, I told the professor how I was honored to be selected and how it would be a pleasure to work in his lab. We spoke about my background and based on that he suggested a few research topics that I could work with. One topic called my attention: It is a partnership with Samsung to develop a “Time-Interleaved Analog to Digital Converter”. As I understood, the project itself consists of two main parts, the realization of the structure and its calibration. In a TI ADC, all the sub-ADCs are expected to have the same parameters. If they have a small parameter deviation, the input signal evaluation will be distorted. Eventually, I decided to work with this topic of calibration.

The GIP program includes many extraordinary activities for both the development of career and cultural knowledge. One of them consists of Korean classes taught by “seonsaengneem” Lee Sorim. From Tuesdays to Thursdays I learned about Korean language and culture. The topics included the Korean alphabet itself, common daily discussions, where to visit in Korea, what to eat, how you should behave especially with elders, etc. I was surprised on how it is easy to learn the Korean alphabet because it’s construction is very similar with the Roman alphabet: The letters represent a sound, and the words are made of syllables constructed by the combination of the letters. With only two weeks, I could memorize most of the alphabet which helped me a lot while I was adventuring myself on the streets of Korea. Another interesting thing that I would like to mention is that the Koreans usually give and receive things with both hands, it tells that you are not hiding anything in one of the hands and it demonstrates respect (as I understood). Later I learned this giving and receiving style, but it is being hard to forget about it after I came to Brazil, I usually catch myself doing it for people unintentionally (funny fact). I would like to thank the teacher of the class, I felt very happy to learn many of the language and culture so quickly in the short period given (less than 2 months).

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Korean class dinner with some of the GIP participants.

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Korean calligraphy class. We wrote our names and nationality on the big paper.

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My self-introduction in Korean, this essay would be a part of the final GIP poster session. Most of my personal info can be found in the “about the author” session in this blog.

In addition to the program activities, I also could visit many extraordinary places around Gwangju and South Korea itself, the chances came from the GIP field trips and the available weekends free from the laboratory. It was very joyful to hang out with the other GIP participants, share our experiences and meet new things together.

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Boseong green tea fields.

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Top of Mudeungsan mountain.

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Boryeong mud festival.

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KIA Tigers baseball match.

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Suncheon Bay National Garden. It is beautiful both day and night.

My laboratory work started with the review of various papers about the calibration of TI ADCs, it turned out to be very important to develop my background about the subject and to know about the state-of-the-art tendencies. My first two weeks can be resumed by discussing the papers algorithms with my labmates. In the beginning, I felt that they were a little shy, but a little after, they showed to be very helpful. The lab had this philosophy of having meals such as lunch and dinner together every day. I think this habit turns the environment more friendly, and in some sense, it can boost the productiveness. Whenever there was a special event or celebration, the professor took us for dinner at really good places. In addition, there were surprise snack times which I could try various Korean snacks that I didn’t before.

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Farewell dinner for one of our labmates Hocheol Jeong.

My weeks in the laboratory were really productive, I got impressed by how much effort they put in their works, I heard that in Korea it is common to work 12 hours per day, most of the GIST labs are on a 10 am to 10 pm work hours. While I was in the lab, I could see most of the participants work until 2 or 3 am, the reason might be because they had some deadlines to accomplish while I was there. After my first two weeks, I started to reproduce the paper’s results by modeling the whole system in MATLAB. My job got facilitated by the background I had acquired over the years inside my home university, with the exchange programs, research projects, and classes. Overall, some papers took 1 or 2 days to be reproduced, while others took one week. I realized how important is to write a clear and detailed paper about your work, the problem of the 1-week paper was typos and lack of clearness of the idea.

At the end of the program, we are asked to submit a poster for a poster session among the other GIP interns. Thus, in the last week, I showed the professor my poster and then submitted to the GIP staff to print it. The professor told that if I managed to find some novelty I could try to submit a paper to a local conference. We both laughed since it was Tuesday, and the deadline for the conference was Friday. It was funny because I didn’t do anything new yet, my poster was about the review of the state-of-the-art methods for TI ADC calibration. Anyhow, I gave it a try, and on the night of Thursday, I found some promising results. Since then, I started to write the paper and within 6 hours I had the first version, I accomplished to make it quick because of the deadline. It is very interesting what a human being can do when it is under pressure. The produced paper acceptance will come next month, hopefully with good news.

Overall, I would like to thank all the GIP staff, my professors and my GIP friends for this excellent experience. This opportunity was priceless, I cannot measure the number of new experiences and cultures I had contact with. I could face not only Korean but many other countries cultures through the friends I have made during the program. There is an organization inside GIST called GIST International Students Association (GISA) which helped us a lot, and from where we could meet amazing people! Likewise, my academic life was severely improved with both the networking and the theoretical and practical knowledge acquired. I recommend this program to all the students who seek to have a great professional and life experience in one of the best universities in the world. In the future, it would be outstanding to see the people I met in a job or conference.

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Korean class certificate, with my roommate Vladislav Bobrov and the teacher Lee Sorim.

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GIP program certificate.

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Me and my lab mentor Jun Soo Ko next to my poster, on the poster presentation day.

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ICSL members gift.

 

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