Approximately a year has passed since life in much of the world came to a stop due to the pandemic. Unfortunately, individuals residing in countries suffering severe outbreaks and many confirmed and reported cases of the coronavirus have had to endure strict anti-COVID-19 measures to control the spread. This has been especially challenging for Korean students away from home as social distancing measures preclude any form of travelling.
Kim Yu-jin, a sophomore majoring in biochemistry at Binghamton University, located in upstate New York, shared her life during the era of pandemic with Ewha Voice. Kim has been studying in the United States for about five years and has spent seven months there since the outbreak of COVID-19.
As a biochemistry major, Kim takes a lot of courses that require laboratory classes. Consequently, at the beginning of the pandemic when classes started to migrate online, Kim personally had a hard time taking lectures via Zoom or studying with recorded lectures.
“Despite the grave situation, I decided to go to the States and come to the lab in person since I am the sort of person who needs to actually try things in order to understand the material,” Kim said.
Kim shared how her loved ones felt and reacted towards her staying in the United States during this difficult time in addition to the United Statesbeing the country with the highest caseload of COVID-19.
“My parents, family, and friends were really worried about me because they had heard the news that New York had the most confirmed cases in the world,” Kim said. “But actually, I wasn’t really worried or scared because I was familiar with the place. Also, I can say that my school is handling this situation very well as the guidelines are changing often based on the number of confirmed cases on campus, and the school offers a free COVID-19 test every week.”
Kim stated that the biggest difference she has noticed between before and after COVID-19 is how people spend their everyday life, including usage of the school’s dining hall and clubs.
“There were so many people gathering in the dining hall before the pandemic, but now, just a couple of people eat there since there are limited seats due to social distancing,” Kim said. “Also, I am on the executive board of the Korean Traditional Percussion Club, and we are having difficulty reserving a room for our club meeting. Since many in-person activities are canceled, a number of clubs are having difficulties operating.”
Furthermore, Kim shared how she is dealing with the complications international students face when travelling from one country to another since the start of the pandemic.
“With the two-week quarantine guideline, it became so hard to travel to and from home,” Kim said. “I used to go back to Korea for winter break, but this year I decided to stay in the States because the immigration process was too complicated. I strongly believe staying where I am is helping both me and my family.”
Kay Pang, a graduate of French Language and Literature at Ewha who is now studying international cultural policy and management in a graduate school located in the United Kingdom, shared her story of studying abroad for half a year.
For people staying in the U.K., it has been widely known that people have been suffering in the continuous lockdown since last March. Pang shared how it was to live and study abroad in the midst of lockdown. She described it as “a tedious restriction.”
“These days, I only hang out with one of my flat mates and over time it becomes so dull,” Pang said. “The university hosts virtual events, so I try to engage there and meet new people online. Also, finding indoor hobbies helps, I’m currently growing perilla, sometimes I knit, do yoga, and play the ukulele.”
When asked how she is dealing with not being able to travel back home during this time, Pang explained that she is trying to focus more on what she is experiencing at the moment, rather than drowning in the thoughts of missing home.
“I love walking in the forest, I love eating food from different cultures,” Pang said. “I can’t wait to travel around the U.K. when the lockdown ends. I think facetiming with my families and my friends back in Korea definitely helps as well.”
Furthermore, Pang revealed how the actual situation is like in the U.K. right now, along with the U.K. being the first country to start the COVID-19 vaccinations.
“Now that 40 percent of the U.K. population is vaccinated, the country is reviving itself,” Pang said. “From March we could meet one person from a different household outdoors. In April, groups of up to six people will be able to hangout in the restaurant garden. I’m just waiting for that day.”
Pang concluded the interview by advising those who are wishing or planning to study abroad in the post-corona world.
“As long as you take care of yourself, things are not as bad as you would imagine,” Pang said. “Don’t give up a good opportunity. However, do consider the risks you are taking.”