I will be honest. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve joked — if you could call it that when, at best, all I got was a chuckle — about Daejeon’s motto being simply “It’s Daejeon”. It is as if that’s all they could say about the city. And, for a long time, that’s truly what I thought as well: nothing to see and nothing to do; it is just Daejeon. Perhaps it is some weird form of Stockholm syndrome, but four years here have shown me that there is more to Daejeon than its name.
As you spend time in KAIST, you will naturally explore both Eoeun-dong and Gung-dong. In all likelihood, you will explore both of them too much and grow tired. However, around KAIST there are many more neighborhoods to explore. Sinseong-dong, north from campus, is just one 604 bus ride away from East Gate. Once there, try out Myeonhagdang — the place that tops my Daejeon ranking of ramen locales — and Cheonlijib, one of the most popular soondae gukbap places. For a fancier experience, travel a bit farther west from Gung-dong and you will find Juk-dong. Knowing the higher-end restaurants in that neighborhood can come in handy for any special occasion. You can also head south across Gapcheon Stream to Bongmyeong-dong. The bowling alley closest to campus is located there, as well as, arguably, the best restaurant in the city: Taepyeongso Gukbap, which is highly recommended after a night of drinking.
And on that topic, annual festivals dedicated to the delights that are wine and craft beer are held in Daejeon! In the Daejeon Craft Beer and Music Festival, usually held in May, you can taste a wide variety of craft beers while enjoying music and food from local restaurants. Similarly, the Daejeon International Festival, which was held this August, allows you to try a wide collection of international wines for an entry fee of just 10,000 KRW. Don’t worry if you feel like you don’t know enough about wine to enjoy the festival; there will always be a handful of similarly clueless wanderers — just like myself this year. It is a perfect opportunity to learn, and find out which wine is the one for you. Though there is still a while until these festivals open again, remembering these for next year will come in handy.
If you have yet to muster up the courage to step out of campus or lectures, assignments, and quizzes have sapped all the energy out of your body to do so, there are a lot of nooks and crannies to explore within KAIST.
For those who feel like watching a movie but are feeling the financial pinch until the scholarship stipend comes in, head to the fourth floor of the Main Library (E9) and rent out a DVD. Then you can go straight to one of the media rooms in the Academic Cultural Complex to enjoy your movie, slouching on a sofa. In the day-to-day stressful life of an average KAIST student, music can also be an escape. The campus is filled with facilities to help you do this. Everyone knows about the KAIST Coin Karaoke, which at five songs per 1,000 KRW bill, is the cheapest you will find anywhere nearby. To brush up on your piano skills, you can reserve one of the piano rooms on the first floor of the Student Activity Center (N13-1). For those who play other instruments but are worried about disturbing people in the dormitory, you can also reserve general practice rooms for some solitude.
Sports and exercise — not that I engage in them frequently, or at all — can be another good way to free up your mind. Aside from the soccer fields and tennis courts, there are other, slightly more hidden, facilities available. For one, there is the Billiard Hall in the Student Center (N12) where you can play for around 5,000 KRW an hour. If you’re more into table tennis, you can borrow paddles and balls and play in the tables available in the Sports Complex (N3). Computer Science majors have access to the virtual baseball room in the Information and Electronics Building (E3) for free. Reserve your time slot through the School of Computing website and get swinging!
So, freshmen, don’t give up quite yet! Venture out, explore, and see what else “It’s Daejeon” has to offer.