From your perspective, is life during COVID-19 in Korea livable? Do you consider that you are fully enjoying your experience at KDI School even in a global pandemic context?
I’m definitely enjoying KDIS campus life and my life here! Korea felt like fresh air to me when I arrived here in February 2021. I actually enrolled in KDIS during the 2020 fall semester. I was preparing to come to Korea in August 2020, but was sad to learn that I would be staying in Mongolia for the first term. At that time, everything was closed in Mongolia and I had just quit my job because I had received a KDIS scholarship. At that time, I couldn’t even go to the library or coffee shops to study due to COVID-19 regulations in my hometown. Moreover, since the situation was severe there, it didn’t feel safe to go out. Therefore, I spent fall 2020 just at home. In that sense, getting to attend KDIS for my second term in February 2021 was like getting back to public life.
Why is it that you feel back to public life?
South Korea has very high tech and innovative ways to track and control the COVID-19 spread and for me going out feels quite safe here. Social distancing measures are very organized and everything is made very clear even for foreigners. For example, Korea has different levels of social distancing measures and I’m informed about the measures I should follow based on the current social distancing level on a monthly and sometimes even weekly basis. Based on that information I can easily decide what I can or can’t do. KOICA and KDIS provide students with explicit and understandable updates on the COVID-19 situation and on what should be done to prevent further spread. On the other side, Korean people are very individually responsible for preventing the COVID-19 spread and this also makes me feel safer. On top of that, Korea already started providing vaccines to foreigners studying for long term here, and I feel so lucky to have my vaccination scheme already completed!
How do you enjoy KDIS Campus life? How does a normal day look like for you being a KDIS student on campus during the pandemic?
Even though COVID restrictions were already in place at the time I arrived at KDIS, unlike what many would expect, my life in Korea and on campus has been amazing and enjoyable. I got to meet people and make friends very quickly by spending time in different areas inside and around campus, for example: my dormitory kitchen, the central library, the computer lab, the soccer field, in and outside campus’ coffee shops. I’ve also gone cycling on the Sejong bikes’ road, and hiking mountains around the city. Despite of the fact that we have to wear masks everywhere, I’m really grateful that I can live a normal life in Korea and interact with my classmates. Since we only have online classes, we’ve had to adapt and organize fruitful group activities following COVID-19 restrictions. My normal day at school usually covers running around the soccer field or cycling to the Geum River, getting a coffee with my friends at the school coffee shop and starting my day having classes. I also play basketball or tennis with my classmates during weekends in the campus sports area. Moreover, I have been able to travel around Korea and it has been amazing.
Then, you have been able to explore Korea outside of Sejong, right? Which places have you visited? Is it easy to travel around Korea being a foreigner who doesn’t speak Korean?
For sure! Korea is the best and safest place to travel even with the COVID-19 restrictions. During 8 months living in Korea I’ve visited 12 cities, including the capital Seoul, and they were all amazing and inspiring. Some of those trips were sponsored by KDI and some others were personal trips. During summer break I visited Jeju island and it was such a pleasure to see lovely landscapes, beautiful mountains and beaches, a combination of traditional and modern scenes, and even discovering local cafés somehow gives me incredible feelings.
I’m not fluent in Korean, but I took a Korean Language course at KDIS and it has helped me a lot! I learned how to read and write Hangeul, as well as some helpful expressions which helped me to have basic conversations while shopping and traveling around. Whenever I travel, I am impressed when it comes to good infrastructure, regional development, and ICT adaptation which makes our life and travel comfortable and easier to manage. If you plan your trip well, it could be very affordable and time-saving. I have only 3 months left before I graduate, and still have many places to visit!