Experiencing the Covid-19 Pandemic in Korea
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Hello! My name is Dana, and I am from the Philippines. I came to Korea to study Korean language and afterwards, pursue a master’s degree. I was excited that my opportunity of studying in Korea was finally happening, but because of Covid-19, I couldn’t help but be anxious as well. I arrived here towards the end of February 2020 and by that time, the Covid-19 pandemic has already caused concern worldwide. Family and friends checked up on me, and despite my initial worries, I remember reassuring them that I was ok. Korea was able to respond to the pandemic efficiently through mass testing and tracing. By summer, the number of cases has flattened.
However, throughout 2020 and until today, we continue to experience surge in cases brought about by infection spread through varying clusters. Although the numbers are not as alarming compared to other countries, Korea remains determined to fight Covid-19 through restrictions and social distancing rules, accessible testing, consistent tracing, and vaccine rollout. Just a few days ago, I was already able to receive my first dose of vaccine. Many say that the progress of the vaccine rollout is quite slow, but hopefully targets will be reached at least within the year.
The pandemic did give me a few challenging experiences and I would like to share these with you. First, online classes took some time to get used to. Unlike the normal classroom setting, there were some compromises. We had less interaction with our classmates, online exams were harder because of some technical issues, and social activities that could’ve let us experience Korean culture outside school were also canceled. But eventually, some students even preferred online over offline. Finally, this semester, all my classes have already shifted offline. We make sure to wear masks and follow social distancing guidelines in school.
Staying at home for a long period of time and limiting outdoor activities were also challenging. When you’re a foreigner in an interesting place like Korea, one of the most exciting things you’d want to do is to explore. However, since we were all encouraged to stay home to be safe, limiting outdoor activities was something I chose to do especially during my first few months. I had to cancel some gatherings and trips because of spikes in cases.
But thankfully, going out is not totally banned in Korea. Rather, there are restrictions to the number of people gathered and curfew in establishments is imposed. This is quite tricky because it changes depending on the number of cases but nonetheless, these were easy to follow. I also make sure that I am updated with the current restrictions in my area and areas that I will be visiting. That way, I can still enjoy my stay and explore Korea. While carefully following social distancing rules, my friends and I visit famous tourist places, go hiking, hang out in parks and cute cafes.
Lastly, because of international travel restrictions, I haven’t been able to visit the Philippines ever since I arrived here in 2020. I already miss my family and would really want to spend some time with them soon, especially in the coming holidays. However, the Philippines continues to be severely affected by the pandemic and the virus spread is far from being controlled. In fact, the average number of new cases there recently has reached to 20,000+ daily. Given that, I think it would still be best for me stay in Korea while I finish my studies. This is a sad reality and even though I miss the Philippines, I still consider myself lucky to be in Korea during the pandemic. I think that Korea has been a safe place for me at this time and ultimately, I will always be grateful for that.
I hope to hear about your stories too! Until next time!
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