First Impressions of Life as a Yonsei Eagle
After a few weeks in the wild, wild, West (or should I say East?) of living in Seoul via a dorm on Yonsei University campus, I feel like I can finally write about my initial impressions of what life as a Yonsei student is like! Let’s get right into it.
Course Registration: Yonsei has, quite possibly, the most…creative system for course registration that I’ve ever had the pleasure of using. Course credits are counted by the hour, so I can say that most students take 12 – 15 hours of classes each week.
Each student who is hoping to sign up for courses is assigned 72 points of “mileage.” The course offerings for the semester, professor contact information, and detailed syllabi (take notes, Northeastern!) are uploaded ahead of time, so students can browse what they may be interested in taking. Once the time finally comes, all students have a few days to “bid” their points on courses that they are interested in taking. If you are the same major as the course you’re bidding on, and/or if you are later along in your degree, the system gives you a boost. Results are revealed a day later, and then the “second round” of registration involves a first-come, first-serve add-drop system.
I was one of the rare students who got all of the courses they desired, and I am in my last year of university, so it’s easy for me to complement this system. It definitely levels the playing field at first for people with different internet speeds, but perhaps the initial, wide openness of everyone’s major can make it quite intimidating and frustrating to pick the right courses in the right order.
Campus: When I was first starting my application to Yonsei, I vividly remember meeting with my GEO advisor to learn more about the program. I asked her to tell me more about the campus; when she mentioned that Seoul is quite hilly, I enthusiastically said “oh, just like Mission Hill!” She chuckled and told me she was excited for me to find out just how hilly a campus can get…she was right. The entire campus crawls up an incline, with the trails of Ansan Mountain (안산) ending at the back of the campus. In just a few walks to the cafeteria, I can feel my calves strengthening!
Some of Yonsei’s Sinchon campus buildings have a lot of similarities to Northeastern’s buildings–there’s the brick-and-glass modern look, a softly brutalist building, and some green lawns in between it all. For this part of the campus, the only difference I have to note is how much larger the buildings themselves are. However, the farther up the main path you go, the older and more historical the buildings become. On my first walk around campus, I was truly enchanted by the bushes and climbing ivy on the buildings; it felt quite like I was in an English Tudor mansion rather than a university! It’s complete with a maze of hedges in front of one of the academic buildings!
Cafeteria: My favorite building of them all! There are multiple cafeterias scattered around the campus, but I frequent the one in the student union building. There are no meal plans at Yonsei, and my dorm only has one (sparsely-equipped) kitchen per floor. Hence, the student cafeteria is my best bet for an affordable meal on any weekday.
There are always 5 options of hot meals to choose from, and a variety of “snacks” or smaller portions to order alongside. In this photo, from left to right, I have: a tuna-mayo kimbap (참치김밥, seaweed rice ball), a hot bowl of beef bulgogi soup, rice, two types of kimchi, and some soy sauce marinated quail eggs (메추리알 조림). The bowl came with the rice and eggs, and I bought the kimbap from the snack section. There are also several stations where you can serve yourself as much kimchi as your heart desires. All of this totaled about USD$6 for me! I’ve found the food served to be delicious, and it’s an easy way to be exposed to common Korean dishes.
Sinchon (법정): Sinchon-dong is the neighborhood around Yonsei, and seems to be the easiest place, in terms of proximity to campus, to “go out” to when you want to leave the campus. There’s everything that a college student like me would want: fun (and relatively affordable!) restaurants, noraebang (노래방, karaoke rooms), 24-hour photo booths, department stores, study cafes, dog and cat cafes (as well as other animals), accessible bus stops and train stations…The list goes on! Sinchon is also where I was able to buy supplies to furnish my dorm from Daiso, Muji, and Artbox. (Note: Artbox sells, hands-down, the cutest stuff in the whole world, and you can quote me on that!) This neighborhood is within walking distance of the campus, and is very well lit and easy to get around. I’ve attached a photo of what it looks like to walk down one of the streets, as well as the most important attraction for us Bostonians: the three-floor Dunks that supplies tons of “exclusive Korean flavors.”
Hongdae (홍대): Hongdae is another neighborhood relatively close to Yonsei campus, though Hongik University lays claim on it first (after all, the neighborhood is named after them!). This area boasts the best local clubs, bars, and fashion stores near our campus. I swear that half the people walking down the main street (pictured) at night are supermodels from how well they’re dressed! Hongik University is known for its art & music schools–I would liken it to if Berklee/MassArt controlled a bigger swathe of land next to Northeastern. I’ll talk more about Korean drinking culture in another article, but Hongdae is also a great place to find the ultimate late night guilty pleasure: chimaek (치맥)–fried chicken & beer!
In conclusion, Yonsei and the area surrounding campus have been welcoming, vibrant and an absolute joy to explore. I feel safe, both personal-safety and COVID-wise, as I travel around and soak in the sights and sounds of Seoul. Despite the language barrier, I’ve been making the best of it, and I can’t wait to see what else I’ll find to show you!