On November 29, the SNU President Fellowship Program (SPF) Academic Symposium was held at the Hoam Faculty House Lily Room. The SPF Program is a scholarship program launched in 2014 to provide university faculty members across Asia, Africa, and South America with an opportunity to pursue a Ph.D. at SNU. By awarding recipients with a range of financial support, such as a full tuition waiver for up to six semesters and national health insurance coverage, the SPF Program supports students with a comprehensive scholarship in hopes of helping them advance their research to later contribute to the development of their home nation. Hosted by the SNU Office of International Affairs (OIA) as part of the SPF Program, the Academic Symposium was an opportunity for current scholarship recipients to listen to and interact with previous recipients who have attained their Ph.D.
Insights from the Three Guest Speakers
Three previous SPF Scholarship recipients were invited to speak at the 2023 SPF Academic Symposium: Dr. Arun Gupta, Dr. Bui Thi Thuy, and Dr. Magsarjav Bataa. In their presentations, each guest shared the story of their entire journey with the SPF Program, including both their academic and personal experiences during the program and their ventures after completing it. Dr. Gupta, who received his Ph.D. in Medical Sciences as a Nuclear Medicine Major, spoke elaborately on his experience in the research laboratory. He advised the current SPF Program recipients on how to overcome the language and cultural barriers that may arise while working with Korean academics, as well as how to finish the Ph.D. while balancing other responsibilities such as family. He stressed the importance of continuous communication with everyone in the laboratory, such as the supervisor, peers, and the administrative staff, in facilitating the overall process of attaining the Ph.D.
Dr. Thuy’s presentation was insightful for the current recipients who have family back in their home country. Having a young son herself, she described her journey in completing her Ph.D. at SNU while simultaneously caring for her son. The key to her success was effectively utilizing help systems surrounding her, like the SNU daycare center, and communicating with her family to balance the workload. To those worried about managing family and their studies, she concluded that although the process is not easy, staying with family helped her form fond memories in Korea when the opportunity arose, and that is what made her collect her thoughts and resume her research when she felt like leaving the program.
Dr. Magsarjav Bataa from Mongolia was the last guest speaker at the Symposium. Alongside describing his research and reflections, he advised current SPF Program recipients on ways to get the most out of the program both in academic and non-academic spheres. For him, the opportunities to present at conferences abroad and establish long-lasting bonds with people were valuable to his development. He encouraged the attendees of the Symposium to focus on creating positive relationships with all those they meet during the entire process of the academic program in addition to the Ph.D. itself as the relationships will surely aid their future endeavors after the program.
A common challenge encountered by all three guest speakers was the language barrier, which proved to be an obstacle both in initially adjusting to Korea and communicating with their fellow researchers during their Ph.D. They thus advised the current recipients to take advantage of the SPF Program’s support and take the fully-funded evening Korean classes held at the SNU Language Education Institute.
SPF Program: A Look Ahead
The SPF Academic Symposium was an attempt to provide current recipients with further support by creating an opportunity for them to interact with those who have walked the path before. Ngoc Phuong Tran, a current recipient of the SPF scholarship of the SNU School of Law, iterated how the symposium allowed her to receive guidance as she received helpful responses to questions regarding the challenges she is currently facing as a participant. The specific nature of her questions meant sufficient answers were difficult to be provided, as those were questions that could only be answered by those who had overcome the same challenges.
The OIA hopes to expand the networking system among all SPF Program recipients, whether former or current, to establish a positive cycle where the connections will help recipients and future recipients with their process during the program and afterward. Certainly, continuously building upon the SPF Program is necessary when considering how the program itself is expanding to encompass a broader range of disciplines and more applicants apply each year. As Mary Delia Zoleta Bondoc, a current recipient of the SPF Program of the School of Dentistry, explains, the SPF is a comprehensive scholarship program that supports most financial aspects of studying a Ph.D. abroad, making it an attractive program. Reflecting on how the 2023 SPF Academic Symposium was its second iteration after its success in 2022, future developments to the SPF Program is something to be looked forward to.
Written by Yeryoung Lee, SNU English Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org