Friday, September 3, 2010

Discovering the university and Seoul

Hi everyone,

I'm sorry I haven't updated in a while but I have been quite busy this week. My plan is to update every week if I can, but we'll see how that works out. This is the link to the second video I've made about me travelling and my first experiences in Korea.

This week I've walked around the campus and I must say, this campus is HUGE! It makes me tired, haha. It's like a small village in a bustling city. Okay of course I'm exagerating. Korea is filled with hills and Seoul is not left out. Some hills on the campus are a little bit steep which will definitely wake you up early in the morning. Yonsei University is the oldest private university in Korea and was first established in 1885 by Christian missionaries. Their mission is to educate leaders who will contribute to humanity in the spirit of “truth and freedom.” Many alumni of this university are in leadership positions around the world. The scenic campus has recently been described as “one of the most beautiful campuses in the world” by CNN’s special program, EYE ON SOUTH KOREA. Trust me, South Korea is in no way like North Korea. The differences are like day and night. You should forget all of the bad thoughs you instantly have when you think of South Korea. It's actually quite sad most people in the world think that South Korea is just like North Korea. Seoul is one of the most wired and best example of how technology can improve the lives of people without completely losing its traditional culture.

The main campus is spacious and full of nature. It's located minutes away from the economic, political, and cultural centers of Seoul's metropolitan downtown. The district where the university is located is called Sinchon. In the heart of Sinchon you can find Yonsei University, surrounded by other famous schools such as Ewha Womans University, Sogang University, and Hongik University. The area is youthful and full of energy. There's a Sinchon Hyundai Department Store, discount marts, many trendy stores to shop at, and every kind of restaurant and bar that you could imagine. Some other cool paces to visit are the noraebang 노래방 (karaoke rooms), DVD bang, PC bang, and plenty of other places where young people relax and have fun. Bang means room in Korean. You can rent a small room for you and your friends and have a nice time. The prices are relatively low. An hour in a noraebang could cost about 15.000 won (10 euro) or more per hour. Divide that by the amount of people and it's not that much.

There are many places to eat at the campus. There are coffee shops, restaurants with Korean food and even places where you can get a burger or other Western style food. At the SK Global House, one of the two dormitories on campus, there is even a 24 hours convenience store. There is also a Woori bank on campus and a hairdresser. It only costs 5000 KRW (3 euro) to get a haircut and a very good service. That's what I noticed about Korea. The service at many places such as restaurants and other places is very good. And there's no tipping! Most Koreans in Korea are offended if you tip them. Even cab drivers. There are only a few places where people can tip such as in an international hotel. There's also a running course, fitness center, post office and a shop for school necessities on the campus.

This is the link to the video I've made about the campus and dormitory.

Yonsei University Library offers many information resources and a modern environment for pursuing discovery and research. The library’s collection has more than 1.9 million printed works and 16,000 serials in total. The old and rare collections number over 100,000. A variety of electronic resources are also available for access both on and off campus.

Yonsei University Library built a new library building (now Yonsei-Samsung Library) and opened it in May 2008. The library complex, which contains the Central Library and Yonsei-Samsung Library, connected with the U-Lounge, is Korea's largest library, with the size of 570,300 square feet, seating space for about 6,200 people and 600 computers for library users. The library complex is equipped with future-oriented educational and research facilities and its advanced infrastructure is expected to improve the quality of lecture and research support services.

Thursday we went to the city for a Seoul city tour. Note, Korea can be very modern, but we wanted to see the other side of Korea. First we went to a traditional Korean palace called Unhyeongung palace. It's a small palace in the middle of the city. It's quite small because of the many invasions of Japan and other wars. It's a quite sober, not over the top palace, but it looks nice. After the palace we went to a traditional Korean house. The house was made out of wood and it looked very authentic. It was nice to see how people used to live in Korea. We also went to Insadong. This area is quite famous for it's stores. It has porcelain stores, hand pressed paper shops and it's full of flee markets with unique Korean crafts. Insadong-gil represents the culture of the past and the present of Korea. It contains a mixture of historical and modern atmosphere and is an area of Seoul that truly represents the cultural history of the nation. This area also has the only Starbucks in the world written in Korean. This because of the rules and regulations of this street. It has to stay traditionally or uniquely Korean.

Starbucks in Korean
This Tuesday we had a farewell party of Jamie and Joe. They are two students from Canada that studied Korean at Yonsei University for two years. I went there with a couple of other exchange students. Annette, Florian and Greta from Germany, Daniel from Sweden, and Jakob from Denmark. We had a great time, but I could see how Jamie and Joe would really miss Korea. It was their home for two years and they have really tasted the culture and learned the language. It must be quite an adjustment when they return to Canada. From the handing out something with two hands or with one hand touching your arm when you hand out something (out or respect) to pouring a drink for everyone else first before you drink first. Korea is one very unique country with unique traditions. On Wednesday we went to a bar called 'The Bar'. Well thought of. It was nice to relax and have a nice time. I met some other exchange students over there. Daniel and Duck from the United States. In the beginning it's nice to meet new people without the awkardness. But everyone seems genuine to meet new people. And Yeji, the president of Mentor's Club, made everyone feel welcome. I haven't really met a lot of native Koreans, but I'm hoping soon I will get to know more of them. I know Noel, Soomin and Yeji, who also study at Yonsei University. I also got to know Yuna, Steven, Seung-kyu and Kumiko a Japanese girl. Koreans are quite friendly and social people if you get to know them. That's a whole different side you'll get to notice if you for instance compare it to how people are when they're walking in the city or travelling in the subway. I barely see any facial gestures or expressed emotions. Even when I smile because something funny happened no one really smiles back. Maybe it's just my humor, I don't know. I also noticed that we ( the exchange students) were the loudest in the subways. Most of the people mind they're own business and watch tv on their mobile phones. It's funny how we get stared at. And we're not even that loud =).

We also went to Seoul N Tower, the highest peak in all of Seoul. It was a very nice experience. The view from up there is amazing and I could not even see the end of this city. Seoul is huge. Seoul N Tower is a place where many couples go to. Almost everything in Seoul is orientated for couples. It's quite annoying. A couple of days ago I went to see The Expendables at Megabox (one of the worst movies I've ever seen) and even the cup for the drinks has two holes in it for the straws. And the funny thing was that the room we went to, to see the movie had hearts carved in the walls. Seeing an action movie in this setting is ....something else. We went to Seoul N Tower with a cable car from the ground. It costed us 7.500 KRW ( 5 euro). The tower is also well known by couples, because they can hang their locks on this artificial tree and write their love notes on it. Annoying couples, they're everywhere! =).

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