Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Time Magazine on the evolution of the dormitory

Time has an interesting photo essay on how dorms in America have changed over the years, and I say that not just because my alma mater, the University of California at Irvine, was mentioned twice. 

Although it lacks a climbing wall like that found at Boston University, UCI has long had some innovative places to stay, including the hippie-led trailer park commune where I lived in my last two years there. I especially like the outdoor fireplace at the newish Vista del Campo Norte, which I think is for grad students and married students: 

Nice. And of course there's the swimming pool, which is de rigueur in master-planned Irvine:

This makes me almost want to quit school in Hawaii and head back to Orange County to continue my studies. The dorm I'm in now, while it commands a nice view of downtown Honolulu and the top portion of Diamond Head, is basically a cement box with few amenities. 

To make this Korea-related, while Korean universities have made considerable strides in attracting students from abroad, they will have to come up with more innovative housing options if they want to keep that flow coming. 

Korean universities are decidedly unfriendly in terms of student housing: Small, crowded, utilitarian dorms remain the norm for the provincial students who have no relatives with whom to stay in the Seoul area; students from the capital are usually expected to live at home and commute.

The UCI trailer park with the $100/month rent that included water and electricity, by the way, has been paved over for a parking lot.


  1. Restrictions on guests of the opposite sex and curfews don't help, either. Neither do fire escape unfriendly chain locks on the doors.

    Likewise, if Korean universities want to attract highly qualified foreign faculty, accomodations for them need to be upgraded, too. Visiting foreign faculty in US universities are often provided with comfortable apartments at rents below market rates. Since nearly all foreign faculty in Korea are non-tenured employees, they are the equivalent of visiting faculty even if they don't hold the title "chodae."

    Korea University has nice apartments on a hill very close to campus. The only drawback was that two foreigners held loud parties, and in a classic Korean response, instead of confronting the two, Koreans did the usual "hiding behind the gyuchik and required prior approval of any guests to the rooms of foreign staff. The front desk guards also jotted down the times each foreign teacher left and entered the building. The comings and goings of Korean grad students and Korean faculty residents were not recorded. This policy was never communicated to us. I figured it out after noticing the men always writing something down whenever I passed by. One day the guards were out of the room, so I sneaked in and checked out the log. When I politely inquired to our college dean, he denied the guards were keeping track of our comings and goings.

  2. I was just about to comment on the chained fire escapes.

    Not that I'm in any position to teach at a university here, but regardless of the caliber or status, if I had to live in a dormitory, I'd walk away from that offer. Teachers at little ol' Suncheon National University live in one-rooms at a dorm on campus. Last I checked I wasn't 19, sorry.

    I haven't clicked around your links yet . . . I'm not in the mood to be jealous.


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