Unforgettable Seoul '10 Day 7 - Sinchon, Korean Universities in Seoul

October 28, 2009 (Wednesday)

You know what's great about living in Sinchon? It's a nice place to blend in, with all the foreign students and the young college crowd. The seventh day was a weekday and Emily still had to attend her class lecture in the late afternoon so we had to stay within the metro. While in the mood to try something different and have some exercise along the way, we decided to explore the nearby universities of Sinchon. Going on this spontaneous tour made me realize how much I missed going to the university ever since I graduated. The first destination for the day and for the rest of my stay - food trip! I actually researched all of the food I wanted to eat for this trip and I went ahead and sent it to my friend before I arrived in Seoul. She put it (my to-eat list) in on the very top of our agenda every day and it made breakfast, lunch and dinner something I looked forward to. Never mind the pounds, I wanted to make the most of my short trip. There's no better company than to have a local friend show you where all the good stuff are hidden in plain sight in Seoul. What's the other thing I loved about Sinchon? It is near the subway and it has a lot of college-friendly and yummy restaurants/fast-food chains within a walking distance from the place I stayed.


I told Emily that morning that I wanted to eat Kimbap, the Korean-style sushi, because it was easy to eat and a perfect light meal to start our walking tour right away. She located a fast-food chain that served the food I was craving for and we were there in less than five minutes. We ordered Tuna Kimbap and Udon Uke Teokpokki or Korean rice cakes with noodles. The rice cakes also came with a tasty Odaeng soup.


It was a great treat to find such a fast-food chain that serves very good food at cheap cheap prices. I guess it won't surprise people when I say that we finished it all again.


I was ecstatic when I heard that my two favorites were in the menu of the same restaurant. Emily said that Korean food cannot be found all in one place because they usually take their time to focus on a particular house specialty.


Emily took me to a popular Korean ice cream shop Natuur afterwards since it was just a few shops away.


She said that this brand is owned by the Lotte Group of Companies, the same one that produces the Lotte bubble gum and operates Lotte World, Lotte Mart and Lotte Department Store in Seoul. I never knew their other products or businesses aside from the bubble gum but apparently, they are very renowned in Korea because they own a lot of different establishments. Natuur is as popular as Haagen-Dazs in Seoul and the food quality is actually comparable. We had a sampling of their melon and green tea flavored ice cream for dessert.


After lunch, it was time to start our unique university walking tour. My friend is a Seoul student so I just squeezed myself to her schedule. I figured touring its universities was a great way to get to know Korea and its people.

We walked through a lot of different clothing stores and restaurants catering to university students along the way. Our first stop was Yonsei University


Yonsei University is one of the oldest (1885) and top most desired universities Koreans would want to get into. The name Yonsei is derived from the union of Yonhi College (one of the first modern colleges in Korea) and Severance Union Medical College (first medical college to practice western medicine in Korea). I call it the Ateneo of Seoul, simply because of their rivalry with Korea University when it comes to sports, the campus, their school color, their world ranking and their Eagle. 


My friend Emily said here, the 2 schools always say they're number 1 and I saw a big banner in Yonsei saying just that. Need I say more? I can feel my true blue Atenean spirit coming to life!


This main street was long and truly a sight of autumn. It's nice to be a student here. Some of the most notable graduates include the founder of Daewoo Group and other figures from the Samsung, LG and Hyundai group. I believe you can also hike up the thousand-year-old temple called Bongwonsa and Mt. Ansan from here.


Yonsei University is among the top private comprehensive universities in Seoul but I guess medicine is one of their specialties.


We passed by the Severance Hospital, located just beside Yonsei University. It was originally a royal hospital (1885) and it is known as the oldest modern (western-style) hospital in Korea.


Since it was a walking tour, I noticed the uneven roads and buses as we headed right from the Yonsei Gate above. The roads were mostly slanted (Seoul was kinda "hilly") and Emily said that there are probably no double-decker buses in Seoul because of this. We passed by graffiti on the walls near a tunnel. If my source is right, these artworks were made as a part of a drawing class project back in 2008.


We came across an undeveloped Migliore building near the Sinchon Station (this is the nearest station to get to Yonsei University and follow my trip).


We just walked and walked, talking about my image of Korean students as portrayed in Korean series - usually the very rich ones who are heirs to very large corporations or hotel chains. It turns out that the big corporations I had known all my life like Samsung, LG, Lotte, Hyundai and Daewoo are conglomerate companies (multi-industry composed of parent companies and subsidiaries). Don't be surprised to find Hyundai Oil, Hyundai Department Store, Hyundai Ski Resort, Samsung Everland and Lotte Mart here. Most of the big companies in Korea are also family-owned like Shinsaegae (originally part of Samsung, owns E-Mart too, world's largest department store in Busan - bigger than Macy's in New York according to Wiki). According to my source, the lives of the rich in Seoul are very private. The Samsung heiress Lee Yoon-hyung made a blog Pretty Yoon-hyung in 2003 that became so popular all over Korea because she disclosed her life in their secret world (makes me think of Gossip Girl). She died (said it was an accident first, suicide next) in 2005 at the age of 26. If you research online, there are a lot of controversies surrounding Korea's families like Lotte and Shinsaegae. Plus, there are actually very rich Korean people out there like the founder of Naver (ever heard of it?). Naver dominates Korea and is apparently one of the most used search engines in the world (kind of like Tudou but it has an online game portal, email and a lot of stuff, I think blog too, I got to use Naver in my room!, good luck deciphering in Korean). I guess the stuff they have in Korean series have a basis of sorts and actually happens a lot in Seoul

We stopped at the gates of the Ewha Womans (yes, it's Womans) University (梨花女子大學校), Peach Blossom Academy), formerly an all-female exclusive school (after the uphills and downhills, we had to go through the elementary first and along a small road). Ewha (I pronounce it as "E-hwa")has graduates ranging from women doctors, scientists, lawyers, ministers and professionals since its founding in 1886. Today, a minority of foreign men take courses here (men were accepted from 1971 at Ewha). Read this story of the ratio of students by gender (21000 women to 10 men) in 2003. It's actually very amusing, especially finding a restroom at Ewha (http://joongangdaily.joins.com/article/view.asp?aid=1992390).


We walked into this quiet campus full of tall trees and benches, not a lot of students around.

28 university tour-yongik,ewha,hankuk1

The weather was cool and we started playing around with the fallen leaves.


I started thinking about being a student here and just reading my books or studying for an exam in this corner. I just loved the architecture and quietness in this part of Ewha.

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We were about to head home and both of us were in for the shock of our lives. The most memorable thing happened to Emily and I at Ewha University. We were at this place looking for the exit, taking last minute pictures. I pointed to a cool structure that seemed like an entrance or elevator without a building. I told Emily that it was cool to have an underground library. See the box? Middle right side.

28 university tour-yongik,ewha,hankuk3

We leaned over and saw the ledge near the bushes and saw this.


The sight just blew me away. We just realized where the people were. It's called the Ewha Campus Complex.

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I just had to get down every plight of those stairs. I had a hunch that the elevator goes sideways! See the numbers? Probably the floors and super cool (unbelievable until now for me)! Here's the view from the inside.


Here's a sample night view from the Koreatimes:


Read all about the Ewha Campus Complex in this link: http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/special/2010/11/181_31705.html


Ewha University just became a favorite school. It has underground classrooms, a movie theater and a library like Harvard.


There are also other western-style buildings in the campus. We entered through the North Gate. You can use this map of Ewha to help you get around.


Don't miss the Ewha street just across the Main Gate! It's full of food and stores for university students. You'll find the latest fashion trends there.

It was time to head to another school. We arrived at a subway stop that is above ground. They were giving away lots of free stuff in the streets. Fried chicken is a common giveaway.


We stopped over at Isaac Toast for a quick bite. This was a usual pit stop for scurrying students in the mornings and before their class. It is possible to miss out the uniqueness of Isaac Toast this way. I loved the special jam in their Ham and Cheese. We also had Peach Iced Tea.


The sign says clean as you go!


Our last stop for the day was the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (韓國外國語大學校). You can guess the specialty so as my friend's. HUFS is also one of Korea's leading universities.


My friend said that Korean students are expected to know at least 2 languages if they want to have a good job in Korea, the most popular ones being English and another language like Chinese (ancient Korean language has Chinese origins) and Japanese (close to Korean and easier to learn). Most Koreans are exchange students for language in China because of this, some are children of expats and diplomats who are expected to do the same thing. A Korean student must also study hard to get into one of the 4 top universities to make it in Korea. After school, parents enroll their children to another private evening school called hagwon. Children go home via special buses after 11 p.m. or 12 p.m. and wake up early the next day to receive normal schooling again. They do this repeatedly until the university entrance exams. The exams are really a big deal in Korea like they depict in Korean dramas. Read more about their experience in this link (http://forums.yellowworld.org/archive/index.php?t-13967.html).


I felt like a student again sitting in that big business chair. The class, although small, was held in an AVR room. The class was also in Korean. I waited for her until she finished class since there was nothing left in the itinerary today. There was a rock concert set up outside but it was done by the time the class was finished. We had to hurry before the subway closes.

This day was really one of the highlights of my Seoul trip. I was glad I got to go to different Seoul universities and learn about education in Seoul. The campus and feel of a place can really help a student go through 4 or more years of university life. By the way, it is normal to find an older male (in his late 20s) in a university because Korean men are required to complete 2 years of military training. Even actors disappear in the movie scenes for a while to attend this compulsory army training. Rumor: There was a case of a popular actor who cannot go home to Korea because he fled to the US to avoid it. He was deemed as a traitor to his country and he is no longer welcome in Korea.

The Yonsei University and Ewha University walking tour and exploring the Sinchon area could easily take up your whole day. You can shop, eat and visit the Ewha University Street or you can hike up Mt. Ansan and do some jjimjilbang too!

Read more about Seoul in Korea (you can find Busan in the labels):
Unforgettable Seoul '10 Day 1 - On The Way to Seoul, Incheon & Songdo City
Unforgettable Seoul '10 Day 2 - Nami Island & Mt. Seorak Near Seoul
Unforgettable Seoul '10 Day 3 - Mt. Seorak & Everland Near Seoul, Dongdaemun Market in Seoul
Unforgettable Seoul '10 Day 4 - Seoul City Tour - Kimchi-making, Hanbok-wearing, National Folk Museum, Cheongbuk Palace, Myeongdong, Drawing Show at Hyehwa, Banpo Bridge
Unforgettable Seoul '10 Day 5 - Lotte World (tour ends here), Seoul Tower (start of our extra day), Teddy Bear Museum, Myeongdong in Seoul
Unforgettable Seoul '10 Day 6 - Hyehwa, Gangnam, Insadong in Seoul
Unforgettable Seoul '10 Day 7 - Sinchon, Korean Universities in Seoul
Unforgettable Seoul '10 Day 8 - Namsangol Hanok Village, Namsan Stairs, Nanta in Seoul
Unforgettable Seoul '10 Day 9 Part 1 - Deoksugung Palace, Doldam-Gil, Tteokbokki Street in Seoul
Unforgettable Seoul '10 Day 9 Part 2 - Cheonggyecheon Stream, King Sejong Story, Samgyeupsal, Coffee Prince Cafe
Unforgettable Seoul '10 Day 10 Part 1 - Making Kimchi in a Korean Home, Korean Hospitality at its Best, Korean Grapes & Persimmon, Kimchi All-You-Can, The Peppero Story at the Supermarket, Ramen Eaten 3-Ways, Pojongmacha
Unforgettable Seoul '10 Day 10 Part 2 - My Best Foodie Experience in Seoul!
Unforgettable Seoul '10 Day 11 - Bossam Day, Incheon International Airport Activities