It is in the morning. Nearly every table is occupied by one person per table. Complete silence rings each floor as each person, all the women here are plunged into their own world busy reading, listening to music, typing into their laptops, or writing their diaries. This is an unexpected sight, if you were expecting a coffee shop filled with chatting two or threesomes over coffee and cake. This Starbucks on the way to Ewha, at this time in the morning, is filled with people who come to enjoy spending their time alone or those who are so-called part of the “stand-alone generation.”
Lee Eun-jung (Korean Literature, 4) who identifies herself as being part of the “stand-alone generation,” was neatly writing her schedule on her diary. “I usually go to coffee shops by myself to enjoy a cup of coffee and spend time for myself,” said Lee. “We are so caught up in our own lives these days. We act according to our own schedule rather than trying to match others. We have begun to construct our own lifestyle exactly the way we want it to be.”
Like Lee, people in the coffee shop finished what they were doing one by one and headed off to class. “When I was a freshman, I took classes with friends that I knew, but as I got to a higher grade, I as well as others, started to pursue our academic interests rather than the pleasure of taking classes together with friends,” said Lee. As if to prove her point, due to the different class schedules that leave students to move independently throughout the day, students have to find time on their own to have lunch.
About one fourth of the students dining in the Student Cafeteria were students eating alone accompanied by their book or students who were rushing to finish their meals. One student Kim Kang-kwon (Computer Information Communication, 3) said, “I think the possibility of becoming a ‘stand-alone’ increases if students live apart from their families. I usually come to eat breakfast by myself in the cafeteria, so I naturally eat by myself during lunch and dinner, too.”
Whether they want it or not, students have started to take the path of a “stand-alone generation.” Kim said that living alone has made her more independent and even braver. “I never went shopping alone when I lived with my family. But my family had to go abroad and I have been living by myself and now, maybe due to the change in my individualistic lifestyle, I actually enjoy shopping on my own.”
When she is down, to shake off her depressed feelings, she heads to a bar near where she lives, “I went there by myself to just enjoy the music and drink to soothe my feelings, but I found something more. I even became friends with the people who work there, and they even give me free drinks now. They treat me like a little sister. I think this is also one of the merits of being a “stand-alone generation,” you can actually bump into new, unexpected adventures along the way as if you are on a trip by yourself,” added Kim.
Another student, Kim Min-jung (English Literature, 2) who classifies herself as a deeply rooted character of the “stand-alone generation,” said that she goes to watch a movie, play, or musical at least once a month by herself. According to Interpark, an online mall, the number of people who are buying tickets to go to live concerts alone has constantly been on a rise from 12 percent in the year 2005 to 15 percent in the year 2006. The statistics have also been on the rise for musicals. Kim Min-jung (English Literature, 2) said she felt as if people were all looking at her because she was alone, but that was only on her first time. “You are only reluctant to go by yourself at first, but once you try it, you will feel that you can concentrate on the performance more and don’t have to worry about having to match a time with your friend the next time you want to go.”
. Starting from students eating alone at the Student Cafeteria, students spending the night at the Centennial Library to students exercising by themselves at the Ewha swimming pool, students have started to pioneer their own path to reach what they have set for themselves. “Our society has been too collectivistic. That is why this ‘stand-alone generation’ is receiving attention. A few years later, it will be nothing new,” said Lee.