End of the GIST-Caltech undergraduate exchange program

삽화 = 주서현 기자 사진 제공 = GIST, Caltech
삽화 = 주서현 기자
사진 제공 = GIST, Caltech

Caltech SURF, the undergraduate exchange program between GIST and Caltech, which had been running since 2011, came to an end. Although the MoU agreement with Caltech ended in 2021, GIST had been negotiating to extend the deal until May. But the contract comes to naught. However, GIST is seeking new alternative programs, thus improving existing overseas exchange programs, such as mobility programs.


The footprint of GIST and Caltech exchange cooperation

The conclusion of the MOU has been supported by the government through the “GIST-Caltech Joint Research” project. Since 2013, GIST has selected researchers and research topics to promote joint research in material science, life science, and health care. The MOU agreement further supported the student exchange.

Professors, researchers, and students from the two universities conducted joint research. They created a research cooperation fund and established a joint research institute. GIST was the first university in Korea to conduct one-on-one collaborative research with Caltech.

The student exchange program with Caltech also took place in various ways. The MOU agreement facilitated an active undergraduate exchange by providing Caltech SURF Program ▲ Caltech SAP ▲ Caltech Teacher Invitation Season Semester.

Through the SURF program(Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program), the two universities continued to cooperate effectively. Caltech SURF is Caltech’s unique summer study program for undergraduate students, which conducts research with guidance professors for ten weeks. GIST selects students annually and provides financial and administrative support for this program.

GIST provided not only research opportunities but also Caltech regular semester opportunities. The credits earned by attending Caltech’s regular semester classes are acknowledged by GIST.

GIST also conducts the Caltech Teacher Seasonal Semester Program, which opens courses instructed by Caltech full-time professors or teaching assistants in the seasonal semester. Before COVID-19, Caltech’s physics, cell biology, and evolutionary biology lectures opened at GIST. Significantly, the “Galapagos Islands Field Trip” with the evolutionary biology course offered unique opportunities for students.


Caltech has shifted to a passive attitude, and GIST is tired of unilateral contracts

In 2016, the MOU period was extended until December 2021.

However, the government decided to end the support for the “GIST-Caltech Join Research” project at the end of 2019. Since a government support played an essential role in the MOU agreement, it was unclear whether the contract would be renewed. Eventually, MOU was terminated.

Despite the derailment of MOU, GIST and Caltech have discussed extending student exchange programs. The international exchange team said that until last October, the meetings were held with positive prospects for devising a way to develop the student exchange program.

The end of the student exchange program was confirmed in May. There was confusion among students since there had been no special notice about Caltech programs. Therefore, the international exchange team said it was not easy to announce the end of the contract. “It would have been nice if there was a notice before January and February when the existing Caltech program was selected. However, it was uncertain whether Caltech’s unilateral decision would extend it until May. After the breakdown, we delayed the announcement because we thought it would be appropriate to present an alternative.” he explained.


Increasing the number of selected students and diversifying the dispatched schools

 GIST is seeking an alternative to the student exchange program with Caltech. Staff Kim said, “There are still few universities like GIST that maintain a high level of support for international exchange programs,” adding, ” Since the active international cooperation stance is considered a GIST’s advantage, we will try our best to continue the stance.”.

GIST plans to complete devising a new alternative program this year and select students between January and February. In addition, staff Kim said it is planning a mobility program as a substitute for the Caltech SAP program.

The new exchange program will be revised to increase the number of selected students.  The Section of the International Relations team said it could not equally replace the previous Caltech program. Still, preparing alternatives can maintain students’ motivation and give them various experiences and opportunities.

The research internship program will allow individual students to apply but will be able to receive financial support from the school. Through the research internship program, students can select the research institute where they would receive financial support from GIST. From now on, GIST is planning a financial assistant to students who applied for an internship at individual universities or facilities such as Max Planck Institute and Caltech. However, unlike the Caltech SURF program, which guarantees full support, the research internship program is expected to cover only some financial help.

GIST is planning to expand mobility programs that have been implemented since 2019. The mobility program is a credit exchange program that sends students up to two semesters to universities that have signed MOU with GIST. Airfare will be paid in full, and students will pay tuition fee the same as GIST’s regular semester tuition. After the 2019 business plan, 2020 exchange students were selected, but the operation was suspended due to COVID-19, and it resumed in 2021.

GIST has selected 56 universities as partner universities for student mobility programs. The schools to be dispatched in 2022 are 10 institutions in the spring semester and 11 institutions in the fall semester, including INSA in France and the University of Hertfordshire in the UK.

The difference between the mobility program and the SAP program, which is a regular semester program, is that it pays tuition to GIST as it is. In the existing Caltech SAP, GIST paid the tuition required by Caltech. Still, in the case of mobility programs, students spend their education for the regular semester of GIST and are dispatched to overseas universities. The difference between the mobility program and the SAP program is mobility program does not need to pay additional tuition to universities, while GIST should pay extra tuition to Caltech. An increased number of students will have opportunities to apply to the program.

Caltech SAP had selected students with an average rating of 3.7 or higher and met the TOEFL IBT score of 110.

But for the mobility program, students with an average rating of 3.0 or higher among students enrolled in the third to seventh semesters and who have acquired 80 TOEFL IBT or 750 TOEIC points or more can apply. The number of selected students is also expected to increase compared to Caltech SAP.

The Section of International Relations team stressed the need for efforts to enhance GIST’s role as a global university. “GIST is increasing contact in various ways to increase the number of universities participating in GIST international

exchange and cooperation,” staff Kim said. He also claimed that student and professor achievements are necessary to maintain progress. He encouraged students to take care of programs and participate in international exchange programs. He said, “If we explore various paths with everyone’s efforts, the satisfactory outcome will be followed naturally.”