In Korea, many students face a long road to commute to schools from their residences, compared to the short ones in middle and high schools. According to a survey about commuting among Korea’s universities undergraduates , about 35 percent of university students of Korea commute to university. Although a lot more than a half; 65 percent, do not commute to their universities, many (25.7 percent) live in nearby housing rather than on campus (in dormitories).
In this Cover Story, The UOS Times will present all the commuting issues of students of the University of Seoul (UOS). We will show the results of our own survey, and to highlight the reality of the situation we will provide a comparison of a typical day of a commuter and non-commuter by comparing their daily timelines. We also try to find out some reasons behind the problems, which commuters suffer. After that, The UOS Times will give commuters some useful tips for surviving tedious times of transportation. In the following context, to clarifying the meaning, The UOS Times define “commuters” as students who do not reside next to the campus and use transportation to travel to and from university. * Statistics Korea, Results for Population Consensus in 2015, 2017
Survey about Commuters in UOS
To know about commuting conditions of the UOS students, The UOS Times conducted an online survey. The 216 students participated in the poll. They answered four questions, which related to their commuting/non-commuting circumstances.
The first question was “how much time do you spend when you come to school, one-way?”. The 33.5 percent of students took from one hour to one and a half hours. That means one third of UOS students spend two to three hours per day commuting to and from school. Next, over 25 percent spend from one and a half hours to two hours just commuting one way. Only about 20 percent students take from 30 minutes to one hour when they come to school. Finally, eight percent of the participants spend more than two hours just to come to school. According to the National Statistical Office, university students in Korea spend on average one hour and ten minutes to come to their schools. Therefore, many UOS students, about 60 percent of the surveyed students, spend much more time to commute than the average Korean student.
Then The UOS Times asked UOS students about what kinds of transportation they use when they come to school. Students could answer multiple choices on this question, for the possibility of using more than one form of transportation. According to the survey, most students use bus and subway when they come to school, 164 and 162 students respectively. And 45 students come to school on foot, which comes next. Other transportation, such as bicycle, train, motorcycle and taxi consisted of a very small proportion of the participants, with less than 10 students in total.
The third question was “why do you commute to school?”. 116 students answered they commute to school due to economic reasons, such as high rent fee near campus. After that, 91 students said that they have to commute because they could not enter the dormitory. And 48 students said that parents did not permit them to live nearby the school. After seeing this result, The UOS Times found out that our lack of dormitories for students is a serious problem. According to UOS Press, UOS dormitories can accommodate only 8.14 percent of all enrolled students. Considering Korean universities’ average accommodating rate; 20.66 percent, there is a slim chance for UOS students to live in a dormitory.
Lastly, students were asked what kinds of difficulties they have when they commute to school. Most students suffer from physical problems, such as lack of sleep and feeling exhausted when they come to school. The next problem was regarding their study. Because of time spent commuting to school, they do not have enough time to study. Also, as they have a lot of team projects, it is hard for them to allocate sufficient time for group assignments. In addition, students suffer from interpersonal relationship problems, too. For example, when commuting students have a get-together or dinner with other students, they have to leave earlier because of the subway or bus times of that day.
Comparing the Days of a Commuter and Non-commuter
After looking at the general situation that UOS commuting students have, The UOS Times looked closely at the lives of students that come to school. To figure out what kinds of problems they have in detail, The UOS Times compared two students; one who commutes to school, and the other who lives nearby. To tell their stories while protecting their privacy, the commuting student will be called student A, and the student living nearby will be called student B.
A typical day of a student who commutes to school
Student A lives in Suwon, Gyeonggi-do. She spends about two hours when she comes to school. To schedule time wisely, she only has classes on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Each day when she comes to school, she attends two long classes. Let us look at Friday, when she has her busiest day.
A typical day of a student who lives nearby school
Compared to commuters, how about the life of a student that lives nearby UOS? The UOS Times met student B to talk about his daily life. He is residing nearby the front gate, so he can get to his destination classroom in less than 10 minutes. Although he has class every day due to mandatory courses, he can manage his time flexibly, with the freedom to take a comfortable nap in his house during breaks or quickly going to his home to pick up any assignment handouts if they are left at home. Let’s show his daily life on a Wednesday.
One of the Problems with Commuting - School Bus
In other universities, there are also students who commute to school. However, those universities offer school buses for students to come to school easier. Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (HUFS) and Kyung Hee University, that are nearby UOS, run school buses for commuting students.
HUFS have school buses that run every day. Students can use a school bus even on weekends and national holidays. Since HUFS has two campuses, school buses run between these two campuses; one is in Yongin City, Gyeonggi-do and the other is in Seoul. However, these are not the only routes; there are 18 different bus routes that HFUS offers. Each station is spread around the capital area, including Gyeonggi-do and opposite parts of Seoul. Kyung Hee University has a similar school bus system to HUFS. According to their website, it has four different bus routes for students. Kyung Hee University has two campuses just like HUFS, so it has different bus lines for the two campuses.
How about UOS? The school bus was available until 2015. However, from that time, UOS does not run school buses anymore. The university mentioned that there were only a few students who used the school buses, so it had to abolish the school bus system. However, there was a reason why students could not use the school bus properly. Unlike the two universities mentioned above, UOS had only two routes, one was from Dapsimni Station to school and the other was from Cheongnyangni Station to school. However, students did not feel the need or convenience to use the school bus, since there are many public buses around these two subway stations and they are really near to the UOS campus. So, they asked the university to make more routes, but UOS turned down their request, since there will be even fewer students using it if the routes of school bus are separated.
There was another reason that UOS could not expand school bus system. It was a financial problem. According to the university website, the school bus was free for students. Therefore, it would be burdensome for the university to run school buses in various regions. But the other universities’ mentioned above have students pay for their bus, although it is much cheaper than public buses and subways. If UOS tried to improve commuting students’ situations, they could receive some fare from students. The payment is still cheaper than public transportation, but it will be really helpful for students.
Solution for Agonizing Commuting Students
UOS commuter’s life seems to be agonized by the unpleasant atmosphere for transportation and exhaustion of their vitality, due to assignments and continuous lectures. Most commuters are likely to commute more wisely and arrive at UOS early. Some of them are even eager to live nearby our campus. So, The UOS Times will introduce the housing program implemented by Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG). Also, we deliver some tips about how to commute more wisely.
Introduction for Housing Program Supported by SMG
These days, it is too difficult for students to rent houses, especially in Seoul. For this reason, many students, especially freshmen who are not familiar with this region, are very concerned about how they can get a house cheaply. But, it is likely that if they get cheap housing, the housing quality will be bad. For students who want the best of both worlds and are eager to pay more efficiently for renting a house and reside in superior quality in housing, there are some solutions through housing programs, which are worth recommending.
1. Apply for “Empty House Project”
The Empty House Project, operated by SMG, is a program that allows students to rent an empty house at 80 percent of real price of house for 6 years. This program has the following procedures:
① A Landlord who wants to lease a house can apply for this program by filling out the application forms via the Internet and telephone.
② For repairing houses, SMG recruits foundations and non-profit corporations, which have the ability to remodel and repair several houses.
③ SMG leads to recruit undergraduates whose average monthly wage of the student and parent is less than 100 percent of the average monthly wage per city worker’s household.
The whole process of the Empty House Project can be managed by SMG, especially with communication between the landlord and applicants. This program provides residents with financial support of up to 50 percent the cost of remodeling a house. Seven to eight nonprofit making corporations and social enterprises will help to repair new residents’ houses, too. In addition, the program provides up to 20 million KRW for renting and repairing houses. Students can apply through the Dongdaemun District Office official webpage or contact Dongdaemun District Office by phone.
2. Sharing a House
If the rental fee for housing is too expensive, sharing a house will help to relieve the burdens of fees and the cost for living. A sharing house is a type of residence that shares the living room and kitchen and then each person has a separate bedroom. It is characterized that residents share the cost of living and monthly fee, such as facility usage fee and rental fee, and even housework.
Ji Ho-jun (Dept. of Computer Science and Engineering ’13), one of the residents who lives in a sharing house, said, “Sharing house helps to relieve economic burden. As I heard from one of my colleagues who has lived in a one-room house on his/her own, they pay about 500,000 KRW for monthly fees. But, I pay only about 300,000 KRW per month, because I share the rent with my two partners residing together.” In addition, Park Tae-sang (School of Business Administration ’13) said, “When I lived only by myself, I rarely had breakfast, because it was too annoying to make it. As a result, I felt hungry when taking lectures and seemed to be deficient of nutrition. But, after living with my peers, I have a responsibility for making some meals and my housemates make meals for breakfast. So, I usually have breakfast and talk with my housemates, I can feel pleasant about my health and relationships through this. Also, I feel less hungrier than before.” Relieving the burden of high rental fees and living with others, a sharing house is a good way to live for students who want to live nearby UOS.
How to Save Commuting Time?
Saving commuting time for commuters is crucial in itself. On the survey, many commuters voiced their opinions about tips for saving commuting time. Thus, with their voices, The UOS Times will give some information for decreasing commuting durations.
1. Use applications for transportation information!
Using applications for transportation is useful for complicated journeys to UOS. Kakao Metro is a good example of one of these applications. This application has many functions that can be utilized for the subway. Especially, showing current locations of metros and telling them which platform is nearest for exit or transfer passageways. These are very useful functions of this application.
2. Use the “Owl Bus” late at night!
If you have to go back to your home late at night and want to take a bus without limitation for time, the Owl Bus, which is a night bus service supported by Seoul Metropolitan Government, will help move you to your destination in the night time. There are some bus stops for the night bus service nearby UOS, and bus numbers N13 and N26 stop nearby campus. On N13, the interval between services is about 25 to 50 minutes. And on N26, the interval between services is about 30 to 35 minutes. Both N13 and N26 are operated eight times a night and the fare is 2,150 KRW. Here is the service map for night bus.
Although the intervals for taking the bus are longer than daytime buses and the bus fees are a little bit more expensive, the routes of the night bus are enough to take you to your destination by transferring to another bus.
Our commuter’s lives seem to be filled with exhaustion and a sequence of agony. The absence of an operating school bus program in UOS is one of the reasons why students have this hard life. In the final part, The UOS Times gave some tips about housing programs, such as Sharing houses and the Empty House Project, as well as how to save the commute and utilize transportation systems in Seoul. With these tips, The UOS Times hope to ease some pain of the commuters who make a ton of effort to get to school every day!