by James Huo
Located in the heart of Seoul, one of the prestigious SKY universities, Yonsei University is in the bustling area of Sinchon, everything you’d expect for a first time in Asia: neon lights, food stalls and sleepless city. Infamous for their strict university entrance scores, SKY universities distinguish you from all the other graduates as being cream of the crop but don’t let that fool you into thinking we’re all bookworms. Trust me, these students will show you an entirely new university culture.
Accommodation is in two parts, off campus and on campus.
On-campus will have you in the international dorms, SK Global or International House and in the unlikely event, the local dorms of Muak. These dorms are at an affordable price, with each having differing facilities, the better the more expensive and are located on the ends of campus, only a 15-minute walk to your classes. Often enough, there are restaurants and convenience stores located where the dorms are, so you don’t have to leave the crib and one of the best things is that this is where most of your friends will be from: the dorms.
Should you choose to live off-campus, there are a variety of options, from most expensive to cheapest, small one room studios, hasukjibs (Korean sharehouse equivalents) and goshiwons (think bed, table and toilet and if you’re lucky, a window).
There are 3 campuses, one is in Incheon and is generally only for first-years, the other in Wonju and completely irrelevant, so I’ll be focusing on the main Sinchon campus.
The campus is situated on the base of a mountain, so god forbid you if you have classes on upper campus. It’s also not uncommon to see middle-aged ladies decked out in hiking gear heading up the mountain. At the centre of the university, everything you need is provided, library, bank, post office, stationery, textbooks, cafes, cafeterias and even a hair salon or shoe repair shop. Cafeterias and cafes come together and can be located all across campus, with the main three at the Student Union Building. I personally recommend chilling on the benches near the fountain next to the main walkway – Baekyang-ro or heading up the library onto the rooftop café. It gets extremely beautiful during the semester too!
Classes will be in their respective faculties, with business classes in the newly built Business building or, like my classes – in the Daewoo Business Hall building at the very upper campus, general study abroad classes will also be held here. If you’re like me and hate the trek up at 9am, there are buses from under the Student Union to help save you those 10 minutes of uphill madness (another reason to live in the dorms).
As an exchange student, you are probably going to end up taking English-taught Business classes and generally these professors are more lenient towards you. The work is not particularly hard but you are expected to at least complete the assessments, trust me it’s hard to fail. That being said, amongst the chaos of partying and travelling, you will want to watch your attendance as that is something the University is strict on.
Social Activities and Nightlife
There’s so much so I’ll just touch on the surface. Given your location in Sinchon, there are 2 other universities also nearby so it’s quite catered to university students. There are a plethora of activities around the area. Restaurants are cheap and open till late, cafes are also open till late and great for studying, bars, clubs, karaoke room, arcades, you name it. If you’re really looking for a night out, theres Hongdae which is the next subway station crawling with clubs ready for you and you won’t ever feel the need to leave Sinchon and the surrounding area. If you’re looking for something more western, check out the foreigner friendly Itaewon for clubs or hit up that classy Gangnam!
Surrounding Area and Travel
Honestly speaking, South Korea is a small country and also located in the heart of East Asia. If you want to head out of Seoul, a quick 2hour KTX ride will take you down to Busan to get some lovely beach and fresh seaside or head out to one of the mountains during Autumn to see amazing foliage! Other countries are also only a short few hours away, with cheap flights to Japan, China, Taiwan, South East Asia so do make the most of your opportunity. Personally I loved Hokkaido, Japan as it felt like such a nice getaway from the freezing cold and noisy Seoul and Taiwan was just a food-lovers haven.
Yonsei offers various exchange student activities and also a buddy-mentor program. You’ll be able to explore Seoul, drink and have fun and participate in the big University event each semester and get a taste of Korean university life.
In terms of social activities and such at the university, life will be a lot much easier if you can speak conversational Korean, as you can join the majority of student clubs, mingle with locals and truly enjoy that university life. Something you may want to note is that Korean club culture is slightly different as they expect you to attend and commit to the club, so it is not common to see someone a part of 2 or more clubs.
If like me, you find yourself with a Korean society, you’ll be able to enjoy a lot more things in a Korean fashion, such as the university festival , the annual Yonsei-Korea Uni Games, go on a short camp and also have a faulty liver. I was a part of the recreational games club and also the volunteering club and can definitely say because of these clubs, I had the most unforgettable experiences at Yonsei. Don’t be timid, as all these clubs always have friendly bonding activities to get closer to each other and are immensely fun!