Monday, April 4, 2011

"I Have Lofty Aims" ~ Anonymous 독서실 studier's graffiti

As it has been quite some time since my last post, I imagine a few of you (because, well, there are only a few of you who read this^^) are probably wondering where I've gotten off to.

Every day this month, when not at work, yours truly has been in a study room. About ten seconds after my Masters course began, it dawned on me that having a 7-month-old child in the house, a child who is coincidentally now in the first stages of crawling (but in a fashion more reminiscent of clawing and dragging), is NOT conducive to my intellectual pursuits. Luckily for me, Korea has some darn nice studying facilities.

On Wednesdays, Saturdays & the 2nd and 4th Mondays of every month, I catch the bus to the local public library. Clark had to tag along the first time because the whole process is far too sophisticated for me. Upon arrival, one must log-in at a computer terminal. The computer is outfitted with floor plans of the study rooms from which one selects an available seat and collects a ticket. Then after a quick trip up to the third floor, you scan your ticket at a subway-like electronic turnstyle and make your way to the designated room and seat. The library I use has two large study rooms with 200 seats each, about a 100 of which are partitioned off for privacy. In order to secure one of the partitioned seats on Saturdays, I'm forced to arrive before 7am so as to avoid the rush of high schoolers studying for their SATs. From experience, I now know that by 7:15am all the 'good' partitioned seats are gone and by 7:45am even the 'not so good' shared seating is spoken for.

Having never stepped foot in a library for the purpose of study in my entire adult life (before now), I can honestly say that I am a fan of such studying facilities, or at least the Korean ones. 200 people studying together in the same room may not sound like the best study environment, but I promise you it is. But for the occasional cough or backpack zipper (ok, that's a disturbance, I admit) ~ it's reasonably quiet. There are separated indoor and outdoor common areas for people to take breaks in ~ smoke, read the paper, make phone calls, eat, drink, or what have you. And all ticketholders are free to come and go throughout the day provided they leave for no more than 90 minute intervals. This allows people to leave for extended meal, coffee, or exercise breaks. The exit turnstyle actually has a selection of buttons to choose from to indicate if you're leaving permanently or temporarily. I tend to focus for 5-6 hours at a stretch without taking extended breaks; I prefer to get it over and done with in one sitting.

If you were paying attention earlier, you would have noted that I go to the library on the 2nd and 4th Mondays of the month. This is because the library is closed on the 1st and 3rd Mondays. So what about those days, you may be asking yourself? Do I take a break from studying? Absolutely not! I've discovered an even better place to study. A PAID study room. Such privately owned 독서실 are all over the place. I wasn't sure what to expect the first time, but they're super cool, or at least the one across the street from our apartment is! It's a small-scale version of the library study rooms, but significantly quieter (quiet as a tomb, in fact) and a lot closer to home. No fancy ticketing or turnstyle devices here. Just register at the front check-in, get your key, leave your shoes in your cubby, and head off to your seat ~ the cubby number corresponds to your room and seat number. This place has about 10 rooms, each with 4-9 seats. You can pay $6/day or $100/mth.

I had to turn on the overhead lighting to take these pictures. It's generally dark with individual lights on each desk. And there are fans running to create white noise. Today I was alone in the room for several hours, and at most I think there were only ever 2 other people in the room with me. It's truly a relaxing, comfortable, and highly productive place to study. I may just become an academic yet!

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