Francesca in South Korea: University Life

University Life in Korea!

My second week of classes at Sookmyung Women’s University has just ended! The first days have been quite challenging: being used at the size of John Cabot University, I was quite lost anytime I needed to find a class for the first time. I felt like a freshman again! Luckily, I am not the only exchange student on campus, so we were all internationally lost together!!

Sookmyung Women’s University has two extensive campuses: a series of tall buildings, stairs and gardens hosts almost 16,000 female students every day. Among other regular classrooms, you can find a Music building, the Institute of Korean Cuisine, Dance classes, cafes, a post office and even a travel agency. Much to my surprise, I was told that this is one of the smallest Universities in Korea! Due to its historical meaning, the school also hosts a museum. Founded in 1906 by the Royal Family of King Go-Jong of the Joseon Dynasty in the Yong-Dong Palace, the construction of Sookmyung’s present building began in 1938 thanks to a nationwide fund-raising campaign that stretched the importance of women’s emancipation.

korea university

Women’s schools are rather common in South Korea, and the educational system is quite competitive. Students, especially in high school, study very hard and take extra tutoring classes to improve themselves more and more. I was told that they can stay at school up to 11 or 12 pm! Their main objective is getting into the top universities. Once they are in, it’s done! All Korean students know the acronym “SKY”, which stands for Seoul National University, Korea University and Yonsei University. These are the three most aspired-to institutions. Most interestingly, one of the first questions a University student asks you is: “What is your University?” They are very proud of their academic achievements and I respect that a lot. The selection is based especially on the score of the final exam. Similarly to the Italian “maturità,” the high school path ends with a very broad and demanding test on every subject.

korea university school building

On one hand, I admire the dedication of the majority of Korean students, and I wish that this widespread hard-working attitude could be found among Italian students as well. On the other hand, I believe that the strong pressure and expectations that these students have to bear can become psychologically destructive rather than constructive.

school at night korea

La seconda settimana di lezione alla Sookmyung Women’s University è appena terminata! I primi giorni sono stati abbastanza impegnativi: essendo abituata alle dimensioni della John Cabot, mi sono sentita persa ogni volta che dovevo trovare una classe. Mi e’ sembrato di essere nuovamente una primina!!  Fortunatamente non sono l’unica exchange student, quindi eravamo tutti un po’ internazionalmente persi!!

La Sookmyung Women’s University si estende su due campus: una serie di palazzi elevati, scale e giardinetti ospitano circa 16.000 studentesse ogni giorno. Oltre alle tipiche classi, la scuola dispone di aule di musica, un istituto di cucina coreana, aule di danza, bar e ristoranti, un ufficio postale e persino un’agenzia di viaggi. E pensare che è una delle università più piccole in Corea! Per il suo valore storico, la scuola comprende anche un museo. Fondata nel 1906 nel Palazzo di Yong-Dong dalla famiglia reale del re Go-Jong della dinastia Joseon, l’attuale complesso universitario fu costruito a partire dal 1938 in seguito ad una raccolta di fondi nazionale in favore dell’emancipazione femminile. 

Scuole prettamente femminili sono abbastanza comuni in Corea, e il sistema scolastico qui è alquanto competitivo. I ragazzi studiano molto, soprattutto alle superiori, e normalmente frequentano corsi di potenziamento extracurricolari per migliorarsi sempre più. Mi è stato detto che sono capaci di stare a scuola a studiare fino alle 11 di sera o mezzanotte. Il loro obiettivo principale è riuscire ad entrare nelle migliori università. Una volta che sono dentro, e’ fatta. Non c’è studente che non conosca l’acronimo “SKY”, compost dalle iniziali delle tre università più aspirate: Seoul National University, Korea University e Yonsei University. Una delle prime domande che ci si deve aspettare da uno studente universitario coreano è proprio: “Che università frequenti?”. I ragazzi qui vanno molto fieri dei loro meriti accademici e io rispetto molto questa cosa. La selezione universitaria è basata quasi interamente sui risultati dell’esame finale. Come nel sistema italiano, al termine delle scuole superiori, gli studenti sono sottoposti a un esame di maturità molto vasto e impegantivo.

Da un lato, ammiro la dedizione della maggior parte degli student coreani, e mi piacerebbe che questo atteggiamento diligente fosse più diffuso tra gli student italiani. Tuttavia, ritengo che le grandi pressioni e aspettative che questi ragazzi devono sopportare possano diventare psicologicamente più distruttive che costruttive.

Francesca Passudetti
International Business Major, International Affairs Minor
JCU Class of 2014
Study Abroad at Sookmyung Women’s University in South Korea

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