Exchange Program at Swarthmore College in 2016 Fall semester

by Myeongok Kim

There were academic intriguing interdisciplinary events in the later half of the semester. Courses were mostly about new topics and wrapping up the overall contents covered during the whole semester, but there were some additional tasks, such as science communication workshop and a philosophy discussion in the physics course. In the science communication workshop, students in the physics course and those involved in environmental protection trained how to convey technical concepts effectively to those who do not have any background knowledge about the field. It was not only about learning the communication skill but also about training to pay attention to others. In a philosophy discussion, the still debated topics about discrepancy between quantum theory and classical physics were covered, and the limitations of physics were discussed. It was a unique experience to learn about science communication and the relations and position of physics to other discipline. I have felt that these interdisciplinary activities are one of the merits of Swarthmore College, a liberal art college.
I was also stimulated by my classmates through the final project of the electromagnetic course. It was making a presentation about the recent technology relevant to electromagnetism, and many students did presentation about the internships or research they have done in last summer vacation. I was very surprised because they did internship or research about optical fiber even before learning the theory. I was impressed at their active pursuits of experience and knowledge without fear, and realized that there is nothing to be afraid of in learning things that interest me. I did presentation about the fusion reactor called Large Helical Device (LHD), about which I am currently doing internship, and from the questions I received from a classmate and the professor, I could have a glimpse of engineers’ perspective on fusion science.
There were interesting activities outside of class too. There was a trip to University of Pennsylvania to listen to a talk by Dr. Gabriela Gonzalez, the LIGO spokesperson, about the discovery of gravitational wave. Not only the talk but also the conversation with my classmates and physics professor after the talk were informative. During the Philadelphia trip, organized by the outdooring circle, I could visit several interesting and historically important places. I especially liked Old City, a bookstore, and Free library. I was glad that I could roam around the city before I leave. In Thanksgiving break, there was delicious thanksgiving food at the cafeteria, and students showed gratitude to the workers for making good food during the break. I was impressed by the strong tie within the community.
On the day of the end of the semester, I flew back to Japan. My experience at Swarthmore remains in my life. I still have contacts with my roommate, and as I have mentioned before, I am doing internship about LHD, which I studied at Swarthmore. It is great fun to understand things that I could not at first while doing the internship. I could not meet Japanese students who returned to Japan from Swarthmore College due to the time conflict, I had an opportunity to see them. The exchange program at Swarthmore College was much greater than I expected, and I could direct my future career more specifically than before. I greatly appreciate the University of Tokyo, Friends of UTokyo, and Ito FoundationU.S.A. for giving me this wonderful chance to study at Swarthmore College.