On my last visit to Seoul in 2019, one of my top priorities was to visit the SKY. As in THE Seoul National-Korea-Yonsei Universities, a.k.a the most prestigious schools in all of South Korea! I wonder why these univs are so great that students (and parents!) would fight tooth and nail to make sure they enter one of these universities—at least based on the K-dramas I've watched (I'm looking at you, SKY Castle).
While a brief visit to these campuses doesn't exactly reveal to me the reason why, visiting the SKY campuses made me feel the honor and prestige that studying there comes with. Sobrang sarap mag-aral ulit, I swear!
Here's a ~glimpse~ of SKY:
1. Seoul National University (Gwanak Campus)
Seoul National University (SNU) is perhaps the most prestigious of the three. Founded in 1946, the university was a merger of ten higher education institutions at the time. Today, it offers 85 undergrad, 106 master's, and 107 doctorate programs. SNU ranks 29th in the QS World University Rankings 2023 and 54th in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2022.
Gwanak Campus is the main of the four SNU campuses. If the campus size is an indication of its greatness, then SNU is undoubtedly super great. The university is about 411 hectares (for comparison, the UP Diliman campus is at 493 hectares), so riding a bus within the campus (free for SNU students) is almost a must if you don't want to be late for class.
The main gate is an attraction on its own. It shows the iconic "sha," which is derived from the Korean characters of the school's complete Korean name. If you’ve watched This is My First First Life, you would remember seeing Yoon Ji Ho (Jung So Min) posing here during her graduation.
The Gwanak campus is also home to the Museum of Art (MoA), which often features students' works as well as the works of other local and foreign artists. The 2009 drama, Star's Lover, starring Choi Ji Woo and Yoo Ji Tae, filmed a scene at the museum and is the first drama allowed to film within SNU's premises.
SNU's Central Library is the largest university library in South Korea housing over 5 million books, study rooms, IT facilities, and even a theater! Admittedly, I didn't get to see the library as well as other parts of the campus, but I did get to visit the SNU Souvenir Shop at the Student Center where I got myself a keychain to commemorate the visit.
2. Korea University (Anam Campus)
Korea University (KU) is 41 years older than SNU. Founded in 1905, KU is the first university funded and administered solely by Koreans. The university, whose educational goal is to encourage the holistic growth of its students and enable them to contribute to the advancement of humanity and the international community, ranks 74th in the QS World University Rankings 2023.
KU is also one big campus, though not as big as SNU. It covers 88 hectares of land in Anam-dong, which is a little bit busier than Daehak-dong (where SNU is located) but is still relatively quiet and peaceful. Entering KU, I felt like I stepped back into medieval times because of the Gothic architecture of its buildings. The main building is one such example, which currently houses the President’s office and other administrative offices. The building is hailed as a historical landmark due to its significant and architectural value.
They also have modern structures, such as the π-ville 99, which is a building made of stacked recycled containers. This houses an auditorium, open studios, and meeting rooms that students can use to prepare for their start-ups, hold org discussions, or plan for volunteer work.
The clock tower is also one of the campus' hot places, visible everywhere on the campus. It sits atop the LG POSCO Business Hall, which houses top-notch facilities that are at par with some of the leading business schools in the world such as Harvard, Stanford, and UC Berkeley.
The KU Crimson Center has campus maps and brochures that you can take as you explore the campus. You can also arrange for a tour assisted by KU's student ambassadors or buy souvenirs at the Crimson Store (I got myself a shirt!).
3. Yonsei University (Sinchon Campus)
Founded in 1885, Yonsei University's (YU) thrust is to provide future leaders of the society with an education rooted in the spirit of Christianity and in the principles of truth and freedom. This world-class, research-oriented university ranks 73rd in the QS World University Rankings 2023 and 151st in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2022.
Housing 12 colleges, 15 graduate schools, and the oldest hospital in Korea, the main campus occupies about 100 hectares of land in Sinchon-dong. Despite being right in the heart of Seoul, the vast and expansive space is surrounded by lush greens too, making it conducive for learning. It is just a stone's throw away from Ewha Woman's University. Hongik University and the Jesuit-run Sogang University are also not too far away.
Many of our favorite K-dramas have been shot here on the Sinchon campus. This includes True Beauty, Extraordinary You, and Reply 1994 to name a few. Perhaps the most iconic building in all of YU is the Main Building. Like KU's Main Building, it is designated as a national cultural treasure.
There are official campus tour programs that you can apply for, which are mostly conducted by YU's student ambassadors. And right before stepping out of its gates, grab yourself a memento, just like this canvas bag I bought, at the Yonsei Coop, which is found in the underground complex called Baekyangnuri.
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