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Summer at Yonsei: Testimonials of the 2022 YISS Students
Summer at Yonsei: Testimonials of the 2022 YISS Students

Yonsei International Summer School students shared about their last summer at Yonsei

The 2022 Yonsei International Summer School (YISS) was conducted from June 28 to August 4. Some of the students who participated in this year's YISS shared with us their life at Yonsei University, about staying in South Korea, and anything they wanted to recommend to students who are thinking about coming to YISS next year.

Q: Tell us about your dorm life!

Maiya (Northern Kentucky University): Casey and I are roommates. It was pretty fun! At first, I was thinking, "oh no, I have another somebody!" Yeah, we were paired up randomly. We found out that we had a lot of similarities: the same major, the same circles, and similar approaches to what we wanted to do here in Korea. But there were also some things different, so we could learn from each other a lot in different ways.

Casey (University of Maryland): Absolutely!

Maiya: So, I was able to have a roommate that we could share where we should go, literally after class every day… So that was really nice! And as living here, I am able to put my feet into a community of so many different people that I meet. Just walking out into the lounges on the floor, there are always different people from all over the world just willing to have a conversation, and I can learn so much about their different experiences, even more than at my homeschool, as in the kind of people I was able to meet. And so, living on campus really helped me get to stay immersed and meet really cool people.

Casey: As her roommate in the same place, I really loved the lobby because there is always something going on. There are always people eating together, talking, and sometimes learning dances together; that's pretty fun! And also in the basement, there is a convenience store, gym, and study rooms. So, everything you need is in the dorm. But also you won't always be spending your time there. You're going to be out exploring the world, so even if you don't find the right roommate, you're going to find the right floormate and the right community for you.

Marcella (University of St Andrews): Dorm life has been good. I had a single room, so it's a little bit easier because I don't have a roommate; I even have my own fridge. But staying in the dorms is fun because you meet people really easily there, and you don't know whom you're going to meet.  

Q: What were the extracurricular activities with YISS like?

Marcella: Yeah, I actually took part in almost all of them, apart from the Taekwondo class and the dance class. My favorite one is the tour of Seoul, just in general, because we got to see a lot of different places, and especially, we timed it just right to get the sunset at Namsan Tower!

Miguel (Metropolitan State University of Denver): One extracurricular activity I indulged in was the DMZ tour. That was very unique because the way to get there is not too far but also a little distanced, and also because of the amount of time you have to go through security to go to the DMZ side, including a passport check to make sure you are who you are… It was really cool to learn what North Korea did and the history of the separation of North and South Korea. I wouldn't say it's amazing to see, but it is definitely something important to know when coming here because you have to know why this country was divided. Also, it's definitely heartbreaking to know that there are so many families separated.

Tessa (University of California, Los Angeles): At Yonsei, I took two extracurriculars. I took the K-pop dance class and the Taekwondo belt test. I really liked them, mostly because I have a lot of interest in dancing and martial arts, and it was a great way for me to learn deeply about Korean culture.

Maiya & Casey: We did Taekwondo together; it was so fun!

Maiya: Yes, I loved it. I had so much fun. I think I found a new sport that I didn't know that it was a sport. I really enjoyed it and learned a lot. The instructor was helpful and encouraging, and he really gave everyone a chance to learn and get better. No matter if they were white belts or higher belts than that, everyone really had an opportunity to get to know themselves and how they fit into Taekwondo. And we made some really great friends there; we were able to know new people, going around and getting coffee with our new friends on the days we had the Taekwondo classes.

Casey: Taekwondo was fun, but the people we met there are even greater. We worked hard and took classes together, and we went to get dinner together, and then sometimes went to a noraebang after and sang karaoke and ate dessert. It was always "not just Taekwondo." You can meet so many cool people, and you get to have more experiences because of the extracurriculars.

Q: Top three places you visited?

Miguel: My three favorite locations would have to be Namsan Tower, Hongdae, and Sinchon. At Namsan Tower, you get to see a 360-degree view of Seoul, including the mountainsides, the Han River, and the city side. The second location that I absolutely loved was the Hongdae area. Getting off from Hongik University station and you go up the stairs, you're now surrounded by all kinds of stores, ranging from Nike to local shops that sell local products, party streetwear, etc. And my third favorite spot would have to be outside the Yonsei campus' Main Gate and the other side of the railway bridge. Yes, Sinchon! The whole array of shops that just go straight down Yonsei Road reminds me of back home. It reminds me of the "16th Street Mall." They look exactly the same; buses come and go, and you see people going in and out of shops. It just really brings me back home.

Marcella: Definitely, the top one is Studio Wup, which is the cafe just down the road from the SK Global House. They have the best coffee and the best "croffles," which are croissant waffles. I think my other picks are Namsan Tower and the Hongdae area in general. The whole area is really fun to walk about, whether during the day or night.  

William (University of Michigan):
My first recommendation in Korea is Sinchon. It's where Yonsei University is located, and I like to see people busking on the streets. I also like the CGV at Yongsan station. I heard it's the cinema with the biggest screen in Korea. There are more features than in other countries' movie theaters. And the last one is Jeju Island. It is a very beautiful island.

Patrick (North Carolina State University): I have to say Hongdae for one of the recommendations. It's a place everyone goes to hang around, and it seems to be the liveliest area that's close to Yonsei. For the second choice, I guess it's probably one of the most touristy areas: Gyeongbokgung Palace. It's really pretty. A lot of people go there and also look around by dressing up in traditional Hanbok. Lastly, I would like to choose the Yonsei campus. It is actually very pretty. Just walking around and going to classes is good enough.

Q: Tell us your favorite Korean food you tried.

Miguel: I actually fell in love with jjimdak. It is a chicken platter, which is very big, and it's shareable. So it's definitely one for sharing with other people. I always go with my friends. It reminds me of a Mexican dish that we have that we also put on a big bowl-like plate, and everyone grabs and splits. I really love when they put the cheese on top of jjimdak. Cheese gives it a better flavor, so I prefer it.

Ken (University of Manitoba): Galbi and naengmyeon, for sure. It's been so hot here, so I'm enjoying cold noodles.

Patrick: The best food I've had in Korea is Korean barbeque. There are a lot of restaurants for it around here.    

Casey: I'd say my favorite dish is naengmyeon or bibimmyeon. It's a cold noodle dish, and since it can get pretty hot in Korea, we need to cool down with a nice bowl of naengmyeon after going around, exploring the views, and getting hot. It is... superb.

Tessa: I've had the opportunity to try gopchang in Korea, and I really loved it. It's so yummy! I think it's really interesting how they handle meats, fish, and seafood in Korea.

William: I'm a Korean-American, so I have eaten a bunch of Korean foods. I really recommend sundubu jjigae. There is a really famous place near Gimpo International Airport, which is my favorite. I really recommend that place.

Q: Any advice for future YISS students?

Tessa: Learn some Hangeul, or Korean. Try to learn a little bit at least, because it's a little difficult to get by here without knowing anything. So that would be a great idea before coming here.

Miguel: Network yourself the most you can and make friends who can make you feel at home. Make as many friends as possible to enjoy your time here at YISS.

Marcella: My advice would be, if you want to try speaking Korean, do it from day one. The easiest thing is to go to coffee shops. You can also embrace the coffee culture here.

Ken: Study the Korean language a bit before coming here. I didn't. I think it would be a little bit more helpful if you do.

Patrick: Come with an open mind. But also do not feel too pressured to do too many things in Korea. A lot of students feel the pressure to go out to engage in new activities every day during their visit here to experience as much of Korea as possible. I think this is a good thing, but at the same time, you can get exhausted eventually. Keeping the right balance is the key.

Maiya: Experience it all! Yes, you have to be a good student and get good grades, but there is also a need to realize where you are. Don't be afraid to take some time to go out. I think it is really easy to do this here because a lot of professors are very encouraging students to do so, making sure that the students are engaged in various experiences. My professor, for instance, gave a lot of activity assignments, making students go out and explore places like café, listen to music, or meet some good people. I recommend taking those opportunities to find the best of both worlds.

Casey: I would like to say that you can learn a lot about Korea outside as much as you learn inside the YISS classroom. Most of what you learn in Korea, like the culture, food, music, atmosphere, lifestyle... there are so many things going on in Seoul, and you are going to learn so much in and out of the classroom. And also, you can learn more about yourself. In my case, I learned a lot about independence and what are the things that really make me happy because I got to see so many different ways of life that I did not see in my country. So you are going to learn a lot here, be prepared for that! Also, pack lightly! You would feel like you need to bring 20 million things to Korea, but all the items here are very cheap and accessible, and you would fill your suitcase with all kinds of things you buy here when going back to your home country.

Maiya: You will go shopping. It's not a question.

William: As the COVID situation is getting better, I hope you guys have more activities than us. I recommend you actively hang out with friends coming from various countries, even if you are shy; that would be the perfect way to enjoy your summer here at Yonsei University.

Jonathan (University of Washington): I would say, get to know students coming to YISS beforehand, especially since there are many students who would make friendships with one another online even before arriving here. Of course, you can always make friends after you arrive. Also, reach out. There is no need to be shy. No one really knows a lot about Korea, and neither do you. So you guys can always wander around and explore different things together. Take the opportunity to experience all the things you can do here.

The Yonsei International Summer School (YISS) is a special program based on a unique blend of Korean and global cultures. Since its opening in 1985, YISS has continued to grow and evolve, accommodating the needs of a rapidly changing student body and meeting the challenges of a fast-paced global society.

The 2023 program includes courses from the arts, culture, and humanities while also offering cutting-edge classes in management and economics, global issues, history, social sciences, science, and technology. YISS also presents online courses to bring more options and flexibility to its students and their time in Korea. Students will have an unforgettable summer in the heart of Seoul, make life-long friends, build new networks, expand and deepen their academic and cultural horizons, and experience life in one of Asia's coolest yet largely undiscovered metropolises of 10 million.

You may also check Yonsei University's winter program: Winter Abroad at Yonsei (WAY)!

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