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Students get experience abroad

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Oh Seong-hwan from the Korea University of Technology and Education helps students in an electrical engineering class at Abu Dhabi Polytechnic. Provided by Korea University of Technology and Education

There was not a tree in sight on the way to Abu Dhabi from Dubai International Airport in the United Arab Emirates, but three buildings appeared after driving for two hours - just like a mirage.

In a classroom on the second floor of one of the buildings, the Abu Dhabi Polytechnic (ADPoly) university, a Korean man in a suit was giving a lecture in English to five female students who were sitting in front of computers.

Kim Byeong-chan, 31, is a student of Korea University of Technology and Education (Koreatech) and has been working as a teaching assistant at ADPoly, which specializes in technology, since February.

Korean students are gaining new experiences in the Middle East by helping students at the university.

Through the Industry Professional Practice program, Koreatech has been offering students an opportunity to teach other learners in foreign countries to help with setting their career goals. Since 2011, the university has sent sophomore and junior students to ADPoly.

Currently, seven Korean students are working as TAs at the university. They assist in physics and math classes and are also responsible for helping out during experiments.

According to Anthony Hechanova, the head of advanced energy engineering technology at ADPoly, the Korean assistants help the faculty by taking jobs such as supervising exams and tutoring students after class.

In a classroom next to Kim’s, Oh Seong-hwan, another student from Koreatech who studies mechatronics engineering, was helping students conduct an experiment during an electrical engineering class.

A female student who was measuring voltages during the session said she appreciates the TA for helping her understand the class.

“At the beginning of the class, it was hard to understand for me, but now I’m very skilled at handling the equipment,” she said. “My teaching assistant helped me be able to follow the class until late at night.”

The university provides accommodation and wages to the assistants from Korea. For six months, while living in the college’s dormitory, the program’s participants receive 1.7 million won ($1,500) per month.

But there is a huge gap between many of the students at the college and the Korean TAs in terms of wealth.

“Students here live in large mansions with a chef and drive their own car to school,” Kim said. “We eat Korean food by melting them down because we froze the foods to keep in a refrigerator.”

Last Thursday morning, Kim took a shuttle bus to school. On arrival, students said hello to him in Korean.

Some of the traditions or practices in this Muslim nation are very unfamiliar to the TAs.

“To attend school, female students have to pledge not to marry a foreigner,” said Kwon Mi-jeong who was grading a final exam in her office.

Among the Korean assistants, one student is looking for a future in the country. Jeong Ha-rim, who is studying industrial design engineering at Koreatech, said she has a plan to start a business in Abu Dhabi.

“People here are rich, but not stylish,” Jeong said. “I think interior decorations and baby products can draw much attention from women.”

BY SHIN JIN [nam.yoonseo@joongang.co.kr]

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