By Erica Wong |Staff Writer|
Yonsei University is one of the most prestigious schools in Asia, and attendance often dictates social status and determines the success of one’s future.
Referred to as “SKY,” it is one of the top three schools in Korea, along with Seoul National University and Korea University. The ‘Big Three’ of Korea are synonymous with Harvard, Yale, and Princeton.
Yonsei University is located in Sinchon, known as Seoul’s student district.
Sinchon is a lively college area, with Ewha Women’s University and Sogang University nearby.
There are plenty of bars and clubs that stay open until sunrise and 24-hour cafés.
It’s common to see people stumbling home when I’m on my way to class, just as common as it is to see students sleeping on their books at these cafés.
No matter what time of night it is, there are always plenty of people mingling on the streets. Even the street musicians are strumming their guitars and performing on the steps by my apartment late into the night.
When I signed up to study abroad on the other side of the world, I knew it would be a challenge as well as a life-changing experience.
Since I don’t speak Korean, I expected there to be embarrassing moments while trying to get settled in Seoul.
What I didn’t realize was that even the simplest things, like ordering food or buying laundry detergent, becomes extremely complicated when you have no idea what you’re doing.
“It’s been an amazing opportunity to explore a new culture and being able to see things from a different perspective,” said Jennifer Membreno, a senior at Virginia Commonwealth University. “But it’s definitely tough being so far away from home.”
Fortunately, there’s a mutual understanding and sense of community within all of the international students.
Between campus events and the Facebook group page international students use to communicate with each other, it’s much easier for us to figure out how to get adjusted to Yonsei.
A majority of the other international students I’ve met are only here for the semester, but Cal State’s IP Program offers a full academic year term.
Most international programs, such as Cal State’s IP program, require students to take a mandatory Korean Language course, referred to as KLI.
Since KLI is the last class of the day, most of the international students gather in the lobby afterwards, grouping together for dinner or forming study groups to review Korean vocabulary.
There are many student clubs available on campus for every interest, as well as clubs to helping foreign students assimilate.
We try to meet at least once a week, whether it’s between class for a coffee, after school for dinner and drinks, or sightseeing trips on the weekends.
International Yonsei Community (IYC) operates on the same idea, promoting friendships between foreign and domestic students.
IYC coordinates similar events, such as bar crawls in neighboring districts like Gangnam, or overnight field trips outside of Seoul to experience more traditional Korean culture.
Honestly, it’s been overwhelming being here on my own, but all the people I’ve kept in touch with from home and all the new friends I’ve come across here are always more than happy to lend a helping hand in any way.
Falling in love with a foreign city as a study-abroad student is exhilarating as much as it is lonely, but this opportunity is so invaluable that I find myself wishing all of my classmates at CSUSB could experience it with me.