Students on a Leave of Absence During COVID-19
Meaningful activities during a leave of absence
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While the school was experiencing turmoil caused by the coronavirus, some students were on a timely leave of absence. Although their plans for the semester were also restricted to some extent, the students spent the coronavirus-struck first semester doing various meaningful activities outside school.
Importance of daily life
After three years of attending university, Kim Da-yeon (Department of Applied Art Education, 3rd year) decided to take a break from school. “I thought this would be my last opportunity to rest truly before graduation,” said Kim, having planned out a trip around the world to the last detail. However, she had to quickly cancel all of her plans following the coronavirus outbreak. Instead, Kim searched for meaningful activities she could participate in during the semester.
Kim wanted activities related to children and was offered a part-time job at an art academy for elementary school students. Interested particularly in children's art psychology, she readily accepted the offer. The first class was scheduled for March, but the school postponed the opening to April. About this, Kim says, she has regrets since her time with the students was shortened. “All of my part-time jobs before this had been at an art academy for high school students. It was new and fun to be in the drawing world of elementary students,” said Kim. She said she also became more interested in child art therapy through the experience.
Kim also entered a crowdfunding project contest to design a Seoul tour with a team. “I wondered if there was a way to help visitors remember their precious moments in Seoul,” said Kim. The team created a diary illustrating the special features of many areas in Seoul as well as planned a treasure hunt game through the hidden alleys of Seoul. She was mainly in charge of designing Seoul-related souvenirs. Kim’s team won the crowdfunding contest held by the Korea Tourism Organization in June.
During her leave of absence, Kim said she was able to spend a lot of time with her family and friends since she mostly had to stay at home. “That, I realized, is the importance of mundane daily life,” Kim said. “I highly recommend taking one or two semesters off and spending time with people you do not meet enough during busy semesters,” said Kim, adding “Although, at the same time, I do miss school and chatting with my friends during lunch breaks.”
The opportunity to make one’s own decision
Before taking a leave of absence, Choi (anonymous interviewee) said he was feeling increasingly exhausted, busy studying and not being able to pursue his dream. “It lowered my self-esteem and made me short-tempered,” said Choi. “Then I decided it was time to take a leave of absence.” Choi applied to work at a company, mostly because he wanted to help his parents financially, and also because he wanted to do something different from what he was studying at school.
During the semester, Choi worked as an office assistant at a company in the field of cloud computing, managing the students at the company's training center. He also took part in a cloud development government project as an assistant. Based on his experiences at work and the advice of other employees, Choi started studying big data, accounting, and stocks which will all be useful in the future. He also participated in a mock investment contest.
Choi said he benefited much from the experience, which helped him gain first-hand experience of the situation in actual workplaces. “I saw how the company worked, such as how many tasks the employees were in charge of at a time.” The self-studying was also a huge advantage. “Taking a change on studying big data reduced my fear of learning something new. Now, I am more easily interested in new things and more open to new paths in career and life.”
Fortunately for Choi, most of his plan consisted of studying and working, so he did not feel too inconvenienced by the coronavirus pandemic. “However, I have seen many of my friends suffer because of the changed situation and curriculum. I hope everyone stays safe.” For Choi, the leave of absence was an unexpected opportunity to see and do things he did not expect. He advised his fellow students not to miss the opportunity to widen their perspectives.
Hwang Hee-won firstname.lastname@example.org
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