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The 20th CALS Global Challenger Program
The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) at Seoul National University offers the CALS Global Challenger Program (“CALS Program”) every semester. This Program provides opportunity for the College’s students (who face globalization of the agriculture industry) to visit international institutions and sites related to agriculture, experience advanced industries and studies in other countries, and strengthen the international competitiveness of Korean agriculture.
Any CALS undergrad who completes 3 or more semesters and maintains an average GPA of 3.0 or higher can apply for the CALS Program. A team of 2 or more participants can freely choose their own agriculture industry focus and plan an exploration program. Unfortunately, not all teams can receive financial support for their plans, as they must undergo strict document and presentation screening processes conducted by the student planning committee. Screenings are first of their exploration plans, where it must be evident that students have set clear and specific goals and selected a target nation or institution for exploration that is suitable for the team’s focus.
Presentation screening is conducted thereafter, which focuses on more specific plans: not only the relevance of the target institution for exploration, but also on the relevance of the contact persons, the concrete nature of schedule and activity plans and satisfactory estimations of cost. Taewhan Kim, a person in charge of the Office of Admissions & Career Development, answered to the interview recommended that students prepare meticulously for the presentation, as it is given greater weighting by the screening committee. The teams selected after this exacting screening process receive up to KRW 2 million if they’ve targeted Asia, or up to KRW 4 million if they’ve targeted the Americas & Europe.
‘Pharm Farm’ and ‘S.M.A.R.T.’ were the two teams selected for the 20th round of the CALS Program.
“I applied for the Program because through it I would be able to explore the subjects related to my major and go overseas at the same time. Precision agriculture in Korea is concentrated on horticulture, but I wanted to expand into outdoor agriculture, so I visited California, a leader in this area and known for its excellent infrastructure,” said Minji Kim, a member of Pharm Farm, whose theme was precision agriculture. During her exploration, she observed the trends in smart sensing, monitoring, analysis, planning and agricultural machines & equipment, and considered her exploration successful, as she was able to hear the insights of local experts on the possibilities for outdoor precision agriculture in Korea.
“The most difficult thing for me was choosing a focus and a trend. Since I did not have a complete understanding of the subject area, I had to narrow down my focus as I continued to figure out whether it matched my targeted institutions well.” She learned a lot through the exploration, which she had planned so eagerly. As a student of agriculture, she was able to broaden her horizons after comparing the differences between the agricultural industries of Korea and the U.S. and realized the infinite number of things she could study in agriculture. “I recommend the CALS Program if you want an experience that will increase your skills and want to dig deeper into your area of interest.”
The CALS Program is not about simply taking a trip overseas for students. In it, students are asked to design their own plans, and make all arrangements as they implement those plans, such as contacting who to visit. The process of making these arrangements, as well as the process of selecting their focus, is not easy. Taewhan Kim said there were many instances where institutions contacted by the students for a visit did not respond. He hoped the CALS Program would become more widely known in the industry, so that students would find it easier to make the related arrangements. Despite this and other difficulties, students work hard to broaden their academic experience. If institutions were more open to students in the future, this would help make an excellent academic opportunity even better for the students.
Student Reporter Kim, Su-yeon / Jeong, Min-jeong