/dev/nur

inspirations by Nurseiit A.

Ruined expectations from UNIST

May 26, 2020

Initially I set out to write my own experience at UNIST. But I ended up with almost a thousand words essay meaning as if I totally loathed that place.

I re-read it all, asked a few of my friends to check it out, and decided it's best to add a disclaimer to clear some things out:

In many ways, UNIST was and still is a terrible university.
In some other ways, it was and continues to do just incredible.

Do I regret going to UNIST? No, absolutely!

Do I wish I could spend more time there? Yes.

Will I ever go back after graduating? May be. Though I hope I won't have to 🙈.

If I could, would I relive all those years? Yes, but I'd probably change some things here and there.

Aaaand with that out of the way, let's dive into the original text.

When the fun was supposed to begin

I hate UNIST, for now that is.

That's a pretty bold claim, isn't it? To hate a university that myself, back in the days of highschool, dreamt of getting into.

So at UNIST, freshmen have to spend an entire first year studying through the extensive list of basic-science courses. And if you know me, you can probably say that I'm not really good at them. Anyhow, I barely could make it through the first year. That's not to say I didn't try I did!

The first few weeks I failed at understanding the most of the words instructors said in their broken English (or must I say konglish?) during the class. And I wasn't the only one struggling with this: 99% of internationals did as well! I tried sitting in the front desk, but to no avail. I've completely lost my interest in those subjects even before the first exams came in!

But it's only fair to say that I've been eagerly waiting untill the days when I'd finally study my major (Computer Science) courses.

When all the fun began for real

Then, those days have eventually arrived, and oh boy, did I love them! OOP, Intro to AI (Deep Learning basics), Engineering Programming, Discrete Maths!

However, that very semester (which was my 3rd one at UNIST) I've experienced some personal problems (constant exhaustion coupled with a minor depression). All I could ever do then was to stay up late doing my homeworks, run around the campus for half an hour, shower and get to sleep at around 4AM only to wake up again for my morning classes.

Though I didn't experience a burnout making my way through those endless assignments, because I actually enjoyed the process! Thus, I've ended up getting all A-s in my major courses and setting my personal GPA record that semester.

When fun became challenging

After the basic and mainly an "intro to CS" classes, it was time for some "real-deal" courses. By that I mean the likes of Operating Systems, Networks, Principles of Programming Languages, and Computer Security.

Of which I truly only enjoyed the Computer Security class taught by professor Hyungon Moon. Probably because it was the only (apart from OS, about that later below) practically applicable class with CTF (capture the flag) assignments with increasing order of difficulties throughout the semester. Although the main focus was too narrowed to cracking ELF executables, that was quite a fun!

There is another course which is practical at its core: Operating Systems. Though it's a total rip-off of the one from Stanford where you'd implement a toy OS called Pintos.

There are tons and tons of open source solutions for any of the assignments for it, which makes it hard for people to learn for themselves rather than copying from someone else's work.

Although the instructors are quite strict about plagiarism, there are some easy ways to cheat like obfuscating the code. And there is also another side to the problem: Pintos is hard and the only resource to learn about it is an instructor whose pronunciation is an absolute nightmare (I'm not trying to be racist or anything, that's just a fact imagine for example second guessing every second word: "Joom? What's that? Uh, oh Zoom...")!

Anyway, I did learn a lot by spending tremendous amounts of time for those assignments. Take for example the time when I set out to hunt a nasty memory-leak which wouldn't get free-d because of an unreachable part of the method. Whoa, that was some experience I wouldn't have ever dreamt about!

When challenging is overshadowed by pride

UNIST really loves boasting about their positions next to the giants like MIT and Harvard in various "World University Ranking" lists. And I know for a fact that many people feel proud to be studying at such a school without realising that those ratings aren't really generalised.

Take for example the title from News UNIST's website [1]: "<put some fancy ranking name here>: UNIST Ranked No. 5 Worldwide".

One might've thought: "Wow, that must be incredible! My university is No. 5 in the whole world!".

But in actuality, it's the "citation points" part that stands out with over 90 points out of 100 possible.

While at the same time, the other important areas of a healthy university environment like "research" and "teaching" are quite feeble with 38 and 27 points respectively [2].

Can you imagine a university ranked top 5 in the world having a mere 27 points for teaching?!

'Cause I certainly can!

Let's not wander off too far and take "Intro to algorithms" class (when I took it back in Fall of 2019) for instance: I literally felt like as if I was in a "Dora the Explorer" episode where the instructor mumbles some questions and nobody (yes, NOBODY in a class of over 50 students) is interested in answering them! Which then is followed by a few minutes of absolute silence and a professor answering his own questions picture Dora as an instructor and Boots as TA-s following Dora.

Даша and Башмачок for Russian speakers.

Who in their right minds would be interested in a subject where everyday is the old lame lecturing (coupled with a terrible terrible English) with no interaction (or related assignments) whatsoever?!

Final notes

As of May 2020, it's my 6th semester at UNIST and I'll become a senior next semester.

Although I hate UNIST, I don't feel like I want to leave that place soon. There I've met many many incredible people and made lifelong friends!

I cried of uncertainties, I laughed out loud full of joy and throughout all those times, I fell deeply in love with people who stuck around with me sharing their everything!

Love you all!

~ Peace ✌️

Sources mentioned
  1. THE Young University Rankings 2018: UNIST Ranked No. 5 Worldwide
  2. UNIST Takes Strong Position in the 2018 THE Asia University Rankings