It was in February 2020 when the number of COVID-19 cases in South Korea started rising at an alarming rate. Concurrently, that was the time when KDI School of Public Policy and Management welcomed its students for the start of this year’s spring semester.
For three (3) quarters now, the KDIS community has been fighting hand-in-hand to maintain a healthy and safe learning environment for students from all over the world. Now that the situation has stabilized in South Korea and in most countries, it is a great time to reflect on the learnings we have gained so far.
We talked with students Younjoo Kim (YK), Kinzang Thinley (KT), Gloria Athieno (GA), and Axel Lemus (AL) about their time with KDIS amid COVID-19.
Q) What is your name, where are you from?
YK I’m Younjoo Kim, born in Korea, raised in Lebanon.
KT Kinzang Thinley from Bhutan.
GA My name is Gloria Athieno, I am from Uganda. It is commonly referred to as the Pearl of Africa.
AL My name is Axel Lemus – born in Guatemala, went on to grow up in Florida, before coming to Korea over six (6) years ago to pursue my undergraduate degree.
Q) How has been your experience being in KDI School during this unfortunate time?
YK I’m not sure I’d call this time at KDI School unfortunate. If it weren’t for the COVID-19 situation, I might have been so busy with a lot of things that I wouldn’t even have thought of being a part of the brilliant TEDxKDISchool team.
KT It was my dream to visit South Korea, and fortunately, I got this opportunity to pursue my master’s degree here in KDI School. I happened to have read some news about the pandemic before coming to KDIS, but I never thought that the situation would get so much worse. However, over time, I saw things move forward smoothly with the new normal.
GA My admission to KDI School was a big blessing from God. My experience of being a student in Korea has been wonderful amid the challenges – meeting friends from different countries and being taught by the best professors make me feel much more blessed at this particular time.
AL As a new student in the 2020 Fall term, I am afraid that I missed out on the life at KDI School before this “new normal.” Nevertheless, I feel very pleased and reassured by the measures taken by the school. The professors have also been very understanding and flexible throughout the whole process.
Q) What has been the most helpful source of support from KDI School?
YK Practically, the equipment. My laptop camera broke down at some point, but I had no trouble attending classes on Zoom, thanks to the cameras and headphones that were newly installed on the computer lab; laptops we also lent out for free. Moreover, I’m grateful for the professors – they genuinely understand how difficult it is for students to adapt to such a sudden change.
KT I will always be grateful to KDIS for their generous support. The school has been very helpful in every aspect – providing free masks to all students for a couple of weeks, creating adequate awareness and sensitization programs, and implementing advice and health protocols related to the COVID-19 situation.
GA KDIS has been supporting us by providing us with masks, mask filters, and with fun online-based activities. Further, by establishing temperature checks and sanitizers everywhere, and sending emails regarding the moving routes of new COVID-19 cases. My friends here have been a great source of support as well.
AL Although I have only been on campus since the beginning of the semester, I quickly found out that the greatest source of support at KDI School is its student community. We should never understate the rejuvenating power of sharing a laugh or a good time over a meal, bike ride, or ice cream-run.
Q) How did the pandemic change or affect you?
YK I realized that the situation helped me to become more proactive. I needed to make the extra effort to perform what would have been normal pre-pandemic (e.g., getting up to prepare and attend classes). In such ways, I’ve come to learn how to manage my life more efficiently.
KT It was an extremely hard time for me at the beginning. However, after being in it for a few months, I do not feel much different anymore. Wearing a mask and doing regular hand washing are now just normal parts of every day.
GA The pandemic just changed my mindset towards life – let each day that you live count. I also realized that in life, we need to have a Plan B that is independent of Plan A, and that we can turn on to in times of great uncertainty.
AL I find it very apt to borrow a quote from an Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, Viktor E. Frankl: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s way.” Despite the great weight of uncertainty, we still can look within us, see what is and is not working, and make the necessary adjustments to live our version of a fulfilling life.
The Globe – KDI School Yearzine 2020