After a terribly long Friday night out with a motley group of ex-pats (ugh), I had this overwhelming need to restore my sense of self through the only means that ever seems to work for me: a train ride. As I had been planning on finishing up my unofficial SKY university tour anyway, I caught the 3:14 Mugunghwa-ho (무궁화호) train so that I could visit the “K” component of the trio: Korea University.
To get to Korea University from Seoul Station, take subway line 1 (Yangju bound) and transfer at Dongmyo station to subway line 6 (Bonghwasan bound) to Anam station. Use exit 2 and walk straight ahead for a few hundred meters.
As I came upon the Media Hall, two young women approached me. They wanted to know if I’d be interested in returning on Sunday to attend a short seminar. I asked a few times what their “seminar” was about… I had a strong inkling that it wouldn’t be something I’d be, uh, interested in. Shortly after turning down their offer to learn about their church, I ran into two other sets of people asking me to come to the same Sunday seminar. I think I scared away the last set– I suppose it is safe to say that I am not really a fan of religious solicitation. I found the interactions amusing because nothing even remotely similar happened to me when I visited Yonsei University, a Presbyterian school with a strong Christian presence.
Initially, the campus looked a bit more sparse and and poorly laid out than Seoul National University. For example, in between the Media Hall and the Auditorium there was a large concrete space that wasn’t being utilized for much. It seemed to me that some of the buildings were placed arbitrarily around campus without much regard for “flow.” Maybe I just didn’t grasp the aesthetic that they were going for… At any rate, once I reached the Central Plaza, the campus became more aesthetically cohesive, but not necessarily more systematic.
Ultimately I found the campus to be lovely and invigorating. This might be because it is currently autumn and the day was nice and unseasonably warm. Or maybe it was that I had had some time to “recharge” from the night before during the train ride and solitary walk around campus. I was delighted to find quiet stone buildings hidden down ravines or behind large halls– many of which weren’t even included on the campus map. Even the construction areas looked interesting to me: color-blocking and industrial lighting.
While tooling about, I ran into quite a few western students and professors and even managed to speak to a few about the academic climate, the general organization of the university, and the ease of enrolling in [English speaking] classes. Some complained of the “poor” neighborhood (in the fiscal sense) that surrounded the university and the difficulty in finding courses that would transfer back to their home universities for credit. Someone mentioned that living off-campus was the way to go because it was cheap and without student drama– but, as I used to be a student who had lived on-campus before, I would’ve figured that.
My reaction to Korea University was overall a positive one. I was happier with the location than I was with Seoul-dae‘s because it was within walking distance to two subway stations and the campus was located in the city, “poor” or not. Each of the many small apartment buildings near the university were particularly remarkable in design and held my attention. If only I could have toured those as well! The campus seemed alive with activity, even on a late Saturday afternoon, and many of the students were in active study sessions or conducting what seemed to be independent research. The campus was not nearly as systematically laid out as Seoul-dae‘s, but it had it’s own appeal. I was informed that there are many times when a course will be advertised as being taught in English, but is ultimately taught in Korean– this I found worrisome.
As I’ve hinted at in my past SKY posts, I am interested in making some changes to my plans. But I will post more on that in the coming weeks as I hammer out details and inform friends and family of my thoughts.