Ahn Do-youl Professor, Faculty of Electrical and Computer Engineering
A Few days ago, I was asked to write an article for high school seniors, regarding how to choose proper institutions for higher education, i.e., a college, one’s own major, and other things in general.
Like many typical, uneducated Ph. Ds in engineering, I am not good at writing beyond the technical stuff. Nevertheless, I am going to spend some time and give it my best shot. Let me start with my own memoir of how I ended up becoming a professor.
I have been with the University of Seoul for a little over four years now, in the Department of Electrical Engineering. Before I joined UOS, I was working for private companies both in Korea and the United States, as a research scientist.
In the mid summer of 1969, when I was in the third grade, Apollo 11 landed on the moon, marking an end to the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. It was an astonishment to watch astronauts walking on the surface of the moon, on a black and white television.
It was quite big news back then, and I still vaguely remember how my teacher mentioned the importance of conquering space. Right after that experience, I started reading science fiction. I began to imagine myself searching the frontiers of the universe.
If my memory serves, I became interested in science, and decided to be a scientist during that period. Two years later, for my birthday, my dad gave me a chemistry kit for simple experiments. It contained small jars of various chemicals, tubes, flasks, etc. There was a short manual describing several experimental procedures. One of them was to mix a small quantity of potassium chlorate and table sugar in a jar.
When one or two drops of the sulphuric acid were added to the mixture, it exploded, giving out a lot of gas and making the jar look like a small volcano. I was totally enchanted, and started devouring encyclopedias at home, in my hunger for knowledge. My boyhood dreams were to become an aerospace engineer, and to build spacecraft exploring the solar systems.
I could not fulfill that dream, but instead, became an engineer in another field. Sometimes, I wonder what would have happened to me if I took a different road. If I learned anything while growing up, it was that you should know what you really want to be. In my case, curiosity and determination have been the driving force. Once that is decided, you need to plan ahead. Factoring out the details, you then must put all your effort into reaching that goal.
However, getting admitted to the college of your choice should not be the ultimate objective. I have seen a lot of students who regretted his or her own choices in university, or majors, after entering. Most of them made choices, not according to what they wanted or planned, but to what others, such as their parents or teachers, wanted them to make.
The famous proverb, “Know yourself,” by Socrates over two milleniums ago, is still a valid statement and may be close to the utmost truth in planning one’s own future. You might ask, how can I know what I need for my future? If I can give you any advice, it would be as follows. Try to get as much information as possible.
Information of any kind is a key factor to making your decision. You need to read a lot, and to surf the Internet for various kinds of information. Also, talk to your seniors and colleagues. If you try hard, then you may be able to form a picture of yourself in the next 10 to 20 years.
College days just mark the beginning of the end. Good luck!