Numerous students dream heading to a foreign country to pursue their dreams of the lifetime. But what if you were to get stuck under a nationwide state of emergency while taking the lifetime adventure?
Kim Seong-jin is a Korean international student who is in his third year majoring in the watchmaker master course at Hiko Mizuno College of Jewelry in Tokyo. Kim fell in love with the beauty of the portable timepiece when he first caught a glimpse of his father’s collection of skeleton watches. These are mechanical watches with the transparent window using state-of-the-art machinery to make the watch’s engine visible. Kim’s fascination led him to go to Tokyo to study watchmaking. However, after just one year of studying abroad, Kim faced an unexpected obstacle; Japan declared a state of emergency last April due to the country’s worsening coronavirus outbreak.
With Japanese government’s announcement on May 14 to expand the state of emergency with over 6,000 daily confirmed cases, Kim expressed his concerns towards the relatively unsafe environment caused by a few loopholes of the regulations under the state of emergency.
“Stores are requested to close two hours early and not to sell any alcoholic beverages after the government's announcement,” Kim said. “However, I have witnessed many stores ignoring these ‘requests’ of the government and not having any problems. Some alcoholic shops are even opened 24/7. Also, compared to Korea, a process to get tested for COVID-19 is way more complicated, and it feels unsafe since there is no emergency alert message system informing the public of new confirmed cases here.”
Despite his concerns about the worsening situation, Kim cannot simply return home and remotely take courses online like many other international students do because of the nature of his major requiring all practice-based classes.
Furthermore, as the situation worsens in Japan, everything in Kim’s life has come to a stop. It has been extremely challenging for him as social distancing measures preclude any form of travelling.
“During my first year at college, which was before the outbreak of COVID-19, I was able to make friends at school through many get-togethers, which led to enjoyable campus life,” Kim said. “However, since there cannot be any get-togethers now, exchanges between the upperclassmen and underclassmen are barely made.”
Kim shared how he defeated such challenges using various online platforms and communities during this difficult time.
“I recently connected with and made friends with Koreans staying in Japan by joining group chats in Kakao Talk and Clubhouse,” Kim said. “By eating out together at a Korean restaurant and doing many activities, such as going hiking and having barbeques with friends from home, I felt less lonely.”
Kim concluded that even a pandemic should not halt one from pursuing dreams.
“I think it is never wrong to go study abroad and challenge yourself if there is a field that you would like to study,” Kim said. “However, I do think that it is important to take precautions for yourselves if you are considering coming to study abroad in Japan since there are way more confirmed cases than Korea and massive moving populations on public transportation here.”