Was university your own idea? If it was, good for you. A hearty shoulder pat and thumbs up for being in the right place at the right time for you. Was going to university the result of a natural escalation of your academics? A place of refuge because you were clueless after high school graduation and university seemed to be another exploratory route? Even more pragmatically, was it a choice made because it is beneficial to have a degree under your belt in terms of job prospects and future career? Whatever your reason for struggling through a degree laden with dissertation readings, presentations, endless essay writing, and assignments is, we have all met at this higher institution of learning. Nice to meet you.
Personally, I came to university because of a combination of all the reasons above. I thought I was interested in political science, I was expected to pursue an undergraduate course, and I hope a graduation diploma will make me employee-desirable. I share the many worries, disillusions, and mental and physical lethargies infecting students. I’ve fallen into various lifestyles: being-busy-around-the-clock, juggling four student clubs, or total shutdown whereby sociability is muted and latent. I found a variety of societies I could join at university, as well as discovering various hobbies or interests that could be pursued. By joining clubs, I could meet many others and one thing came clear; the ubiquity of uniqueness in university is baffling. The spectrum of personalities, backgrounds and opinions within a university community is wide-ranging, and this diversity is in some ways refreshing and in others overwhelming.
Precisely because of this diversity, individualities are expressed through interests, words, deeds, and attire, and has made me keen to observe people whenever I can. For this article I ventured to talk with a few Yonseians about their majors, the best and worst things about college life, their current interests, and thoughts that occupies their mind. Here are a few accounts from Yonsei students about their university lives.
“Uni life has been rocky. At times I feel lost in a lecture room because of the vastness of the knowledge taught and absorbed by other students, seemingly without fuss. I tend to worry or overthink, and find it very hard to venture and opine during open discussions. As a Sinchon-newbie, my university life has changed from my Songdo life. My life in Songdo was unkempt – I would literally walk out 5 minutes before class in slippers. Getting together and socializing was a daily routine, and the Chi-gae (chicken stairs) was my second most frequented place after my bed. Now, I commute to Sinchon. I don’t stay as late on campus. Increasingly, I have gotten into packing lunchboxes because of the unsatisfying school meals, and have become a pro at eating alone. However, being in Sinchon has its benefits as well. I can join in club activities more frequently. By joining the Yonsei rowing club, exercise and health have become my top priorities. We meet on Saturdays at the Misari Boat Race Course to train on water, while on weekdays we meet twice to train on land by using the ergometer. So, whilst my university life seems quiet, my afternoons are spent busy, erging, sweating the grime off.”
– Sophomore, UIC, undecided
“University has been a mixed success with plenty of ups and downs. The bad news is that my GPA has hit rock bottom. I am majoring in biotechnology which is interesting in some aspects but boring in others, so it’s too bad they have to go together. I hate crunching numbers but I also can’t deal with abstract theoretical studies. I’ve also become a caffeine addict.
On the other hand, the good news is that I am recovering on both ends; my GPA is improving and I’ve definitely gotten over caffeine. Also, I have become acquainted with awesome people. At high school, I didn’t have many opportunities to make friends with people studying social science majors. However, after coming to university and joining YTC (Yonsei Tea Club), I met new people with novel ways of thinking. I think I learned more about social relationships and people than academics after coming to university. In university, with gatherings comes the inevitable alcohol consumption. I am not complaining though; I’ve become an alcohol enthusiast.”
– Junior, Dept. of Biotechnology.
“In terms of university, I’d say it’s going alright, but it’s still too early to tell. It’s a lot of work for sure. Satisfaction level with my CLC degree is also something I can’t answer until I see what opportunities this gives me in the future. So far it has been pretty good in letting me explore the fields I am interested in. However, if I decide to pursue a degree that isn’t concentrated on colonial or post-colonial Asian literature (which is what the UIC CLC curriculum is centered around), I think I might be disappointed in the class options I will have in the future.
The best thing about university is that I get to study what is fun for me. No more equations! The worst thing about university is that it often gives me feelings of inferiority. Others will have better grades, appear to be financially much better off, or seem to be more accomplished in literature, while balancing clubs and internships at the same time. This intimidation has its pros, but it often gives me great anxiety.”
– Sophomore, UIC, CLC
“The decision to go to university (UC San Diego) so far away from home, Seattle, has been a real journey. As a person who had always lived in the same place before coming to university, getting to see diverse views, lifestyles, and values opened my eyes to the differences of the world.
I survived studying abroad in Korea (very far away from home!) for a full year. It was one of the best experiences for me and I would highly recommend this experience to anyone else. The amount that you grow in university is unbelievable.
On the other hand, university, like most things, does have its let-downs. It is very easy to get overwhelmed, to feel like you do not belong. This was a little disheartening at first and it is very easy to campout in your room and not venture out. The best solution is to join clubs you are interested in. It often takes a lot of effort to make new friends in university especially if you are an exchange student as many people already have existing friends from before.”
– Junior, exchange student, Dept. of Business.
It is easy to relate to most of the feelings and experiences the interviewees had. The conclusion appears to be that having mixed emotions about university is normal. But one thing is clear; try not to become a Teflon slacker. As Stephen Hawking once said, “Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.”
With Hawking looking down at us from above, lets cheer up. With university comes new freedoms in choosing a major, in going to classes, in spending your time. Time at college seems so bountiful at times but so short at others that it seems wasteful when squandered on doing something unproductive. Mood swings in a college student can be dramatic and sometimes you don’t have any idea what it was triggered by. On those blue days, remember that this is just a temporary feeling, go out for some vitamin D, or do something that makes you happy. Always find time for things that make you feel happy to be alive. Cheers.