It’s almost April, somehow. This year feels surreal, but for all the wrong reasons.
In the words of my university, the current situation is dynamic and rapidly changing. The current government advice is to travel home, however, after much discussion with friends and family, I am staying in Seoul for the time being, at least until my study period is over.
After numerous emails offering varying levels of encouragement to return home to the UK, there was a bad day where the University emailed me to announce an official, formal recall of all the students living abroad – essentially, their travel insurance was revoking cover and would not cover us for the rest of our stay.
So my two options were either to go home, and fast, or to take out personal travel insurance and stay.
It was early in the morning when I received the email, and with my brain still processing this update, I panicked to the point of starting to pack at 10am, which then made me so sad I stopped and played Animal Crossing for the rest of the day. When I chose to stay in Korea just last week, I committed to that decision and I hated the possibility of having to go home despite having made that choice.
Most importantly, my parents and I still strongly agree that I am much safer in Seoul than at home right now, with the measures put in place in South Korea to prevent the spread and the great accessibility of free testing in Korea, plus the risks of traveling at all and being on a plane at this time. At this moment in time, we’re also more worried about the UK’s situation than for South Korea’s.
To provide context for myself and other readers if you’re reading at a later date, with links to news articles:
- The UK’s number of total cases has overtaken that of South Korea’s. The number of deaths was overtaken a few days ago and is currently more than 4 times the number in South Korea as of noon on the 28th March, Korean Time (3AM GMT).
- (I couldn’t find an article addressing these facts specifically, but the figures are pulled from worldmeters.info)
- The US’s and Italy’s total number of cases has overtaken that of China’s, and China has now closed their travel borders to foreign visitors to prevent ‘imported cases’, again as of the 28th March. (BBC News)
- The UK’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has tested positive for COVID-19 (BBC News)
- As of about 4 days ago, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics has been postponed to sometime next year.
I was expecting my parents to want me to fly home, but it seems my parents, dad especially, have been keeping up with the news and staying informed. My brother remains at his university campus to finish his studies as they’re also worried about him traveling through London in order to get home. I really appreciate how supportive my parents have been throughout all this as I know they’re worried about our safety. I think this is the first world disaster we’ve been through as a family that I remember (I was too young to remember SARS or much else happening in the UK) and I am glad they understand the situation and have our backs.
My sister is not at school, but they didn’t close directly due to the coronavirus – but indirectly, as they were understaffed enough for it to be unsafe for students to stay in school. My university has moved all classes online and exams this year are canceled, and this seems to be the same at other universities, too, with only coursework and digitally submitted assignments remaining. My university has relaxed many of its usual submission guidelines as well to account for the situation.
A couple of my friends will have safely arrived home by the time this post goes out. as they decided to return home before the official recall notice. Overall, as students on placement years, we’re all very frustrated at this situation, but also very tired of being frustrated. Again, I am determined to milk what’s left of my placement year, even if the rest of my placement year is spent at home, focusing on my studies and playing Animal Crossing.
I should clarify. I haven’t really left the local area much since the semester began, so all my photos today are photos of me, virtually going out, through Animal Crossing. A game about living life outdoors is how I am living right now. I am even able to visit my friends in the UK and go on dates with my boyfriend, albeit virtually.
For my siblings who don’t own their own consoles, I stream it to them and we chat and keep each other company. My sister gets to help me make decisions about the island town we will eventually share when I return to the UK. This game was a huge part of our shared childhood, and I am sure in another decade I (and many others) will be holding this new installment very dear to my heart as it gets me through an awfully tough time.
So, I’ve started classes in Seoul. Online classes are an unusual experience, but also kind of welcome – I really like the topics I have picked to study this semester! Besides the public health reasons for holding them online, they’re much easier to deal with in times of anxiety, like right now. There have been plenty of adjustment pains where lecturers want to see our faces, don’t have the tech to be able to use the teaching software to its full potential, or just suffer connection issues.
I actually find myself doing my best to stick to doing work despite having slightly less structured days so that I have something to do and some form of productivity. I haven’t let my sleep schedule go and I’m waking up readily at 7am which is unprecedented as of late. This is a minor reason why I chose to finish my studies here – I need that to distract right now from the news and the surrounding situation. Like many others, I’d love to avoid the news right now, but we don’t really have a choice in the matter if we want to stay updated on what we can and can’t do to stay safe.
Well, I think that’s all the updates from me for now, and hopefully the rest of the semester passes by peacefully and I won’t have much to update later on.