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[Student Interview] Always Gear Up for a New Adventure, But Never Shy Away from Asking for Directions
[Student Interview] Always Gear Up for a New Adventure, But Never Shy Away from Asking for Directions

Yonsei Graduate School of Engineering Student Sahar Sohani from Islamic Republic of Iran

Name: Sahar Sohani
Nationality: Islamic Republic of Iran
College/Graduate School: Yonsei Graduate School of Engineering
Major/Specialization: Department of Information and Industrial Engineering | PhD 7th semester

A New Adventure at Yonsei
My interest in Korea and its culture began when I was about 20 years old. I watched a drama on our national TV called 'Jewel in the Palace' (대장금). The hardworking and brave protagonist of the series deeply inspired me. This sparked my curiosity and led me to explore more about Korea. Over time, I watched many Korean dramas, and I became fascinated by the similarities between Korean and Iranian cultures.

I have always been keen on pursuing my PhD abroad, particularly in an Asian country, where the educational challenges are similar to those in my own country. I wanted this experience to foster my personal and academic growth while being in a place that shares many cultural similarities with my homeland. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, when it was nearly impossible to apply for study programs anywhere, South Korea uniquely kept its doors open to international students. Motivated by this opportunity, I applied to a graduate program here. After connecting with a professor in my field and successfully passing two interviews, I received an acceptance from the department.

Several factors guided me toward Yonsei. Key among these were the alignment of my academic interests with the expertise of a professor there, and the relevance of their program to my desired field of study. Additionally, the undeniable beauty and prime location of Yonsei University’s campus made it an even more appealing choice.

One of the most significant challenges I faced upon arriving in South Korea was the language barrier. While many people know English and tools like Papago are available, truly integrating into Korean society—whether for networking, working, or forming close relationships—requires proficiency in Korean. Initially, this language barrier made it difficult for me to make close friends.

Additionally, as an Iranian, I encountered specific difficulties due to sanctions against my country. These sanctions impacted practical aspects of daily life, such as dealing with banking systems, adding an extra layer of complexity to living in South Korea.

However, I had my secret weapons to overcome these challenges—my advisor and friends! No matter where you are, it’s all about having those go-to folks who are ready to lend a hand or an ear. Of course, sometimes you've got to strap on your boots and trudge through the mud solo. You might even stumble a bit! But hey, it’s all about picking yourself back up, dusting off, and charging ahead. As a young immigrant student starting from scratch, I didn’t expect a smooth sail. Life threw some curveballs, but with a little grit and a lot of asking around for advice, I managed to navigate through. 

After three years in Korea, I truly feel like Seoul—and particularly Sinchon Street—is home.

An Aspiring Engineering Professional 
My journey into industrial engineering started with my bachelor’s and continued through my master's degree, and it's a path I've been passionate about every step of the way. I've always been fascinated by the puzzle of optimization in the supply chain, from the initial creation of a product to its delivery to customers. This intrigue is what drove me to pursue my PhD in the same field. It's like a never-ending game where each piece of the process fits together in the most efficient way possible, and I love the challenge of making it all work smoothly. 

Life as a postgraduate student is structured yet varied, centered largely around our research responsibilities. Typically, we're expected in the lab from 9 AM to 6 PM, though it's not uncommon to stay later, depending on the professor’s requirements and the nature of our research. 

Unlike undergraduates, who have a more course-heavy schedule, our focus is primarily on research. This involves being deeply engaged with our specific projects or research topics, which are assigned by our professors. We also participate in weekly lab meetings where we present our progress and discuss findings with peers and supervisors. The graduation criteria for postgraduates differ significantly from those of undergraduates, as they are more research-oriented and vary by department. 

After completing my PhD at Yonsei, I'm considering several paths forward. One option is to join a postdoctoral program, which would allow me to delve even deeper into my research interests. Alternatively, I'm also exploring opportunities to work in industry, where I can apply my knowledge in practical settings. However, as I've learned through my time here, proficiency in the Korean language is crucial for securing the best job opportunities in South Korea. Therefore, my immediate priority is to enhance my Korean language skills.

Advice to Foreign Students
My advice to any student considering post-graduate studies in Korea, particularly at Yonsei, is to choose their destination thoughtfully. It's crucial to understand that no place is perfect—every destination will have its own set of advantages and challenges.

The key is to clearly define your academic and personal goals before you embark on this journey. Be prepared to embrace both the highs and lows, focusing on your objectives, and finding joy in the path you take to reach them. This approach will not only help you adapt to postgraduate life but also enrich your overall experience as an international student.

Yonsei University is an excellent choice for international students, featuring top-ranked academic programs, highly educated professors, and a range of international opportunities. Located in one of Seoul's most attractive areas, its campus is not only academically stimulating but also visually appealing. 

I wish all aspiring students the very best in their academic pursuits.

Interview by student reporter Jo Beomsu

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