Adding to the attractiveness of studying abroad in Seoul, South Korea, are the myriad places where students are able to study other than local public libraries, which, unlike Toronto, Seoul lacks in abundance. In the area around Yonsei University, known as Sinchon (신촌), there are numerous cafés and restaurants where students may study in rather comfortable and hassle-free settings. I’ve had a chance to experience quite a few.
It may be said that trendy cafés are to South Korea what fast-food providers are to the U.S., in that there are many options just about anywhere you go in most large cities. In most areas of Seoul you can’t walk more than a minute without seeing one of the many local coffee chains; many of them are open 24 hours and provide comfy and often unique environments. The average price of a coffee at one of these places is anywhere from about three to six dollars, which is fairly expensive if you’re used to Tim Hortons or even Starbucks or Second Cup prices in general.
Around exam time you can easily find coffee shops full of young Korean students cramming for tests or meeting about projects, but perhaps more interesting is that one can see the same sight at Korean McDonald’s and Lotteria (a local fast-food burger chain) locations. That’s right, friends, no 20-minute seating limit in Korean Macdonald’s, and you don’t need to buy things either! You can just sit around and study, hassle-free. It’s quite convenient, especially if you live off-campus and can’t make it to the university library.
Perhaps the most comfortable place to study is a spa/sauna known as a jimjjilbang (짐찔방). Though not a popular location, probably because the price of admission ranges from 8,000 to 15,000 won (about $7–14), it’s quite a nice place to study—in comfortable clothing provided by the spa while sitting on a bed mat or at a desk in one of their study rooms. Just make sure you don’t fall asleep after the hot bath and steam room! There are jimjjilbangs all over Seoul, and a few of them are within walking distance of Yonsei.
There are many areas and vistas in Seoul, so I’m always finding new places to spend my reading time. It certainly makes studying a bit more interesting, at least!