Nowadays in Korea, a very common question among university students is - “Are you still single?” Also, one of the most heard pieces of advice is - “You should apply for an exchange student program. It is the only chance you will have in your whole life.” If you are a Korean university student, you can probably empathize with these phrases. However, some people have started to complain saying something like - “Stop being nosy. I will take care of my own business.” The Dongguk Post interviewed two students each who wanted to talk about the perceived necessity of these two topics: dating and the exchange student experience.
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Half serious, I am already stressed out without your advice!
Male, 25 years old
Single for five years
Q. What is the meaning of “dating” to you?
A. It sounds very difficult for me because I have not thought about the concept of dating! I want to describe “dating” with “cost.” Of course, I know that it is not a good attitude to compare the love to money. However, here is a thing. “You gain some, you lose some.” For me, the concept, opportunity cost, could be a proper explanation for dating. It means I should give up so many things when I try to date someone. As I am a busy person, there are tons of things to do. Even if I love her, it is somewhat a burden to me and consequently, I also might be exhausted.
Q. Do you think you need a girlfriend right now?
A. Actually, for five years, I had no crush on anyone. In addition, I cannot afford to date with someone and I am enjoying my satisfying life. To be honest, I have no thoughts on the necessity of having a girlfriend right now. I know if I have a girlfriend, it would be better in some aspects of my life. But, it is not my concern at all. Nowadays, I am interested in self-development, not romance that would last just a short time. I am enjoying my satisfying life by myself.
Q. Have you experienced any stress because of others’ reactions towards your relationship?
A. Whenever I meet my friends, they say that I have to fall in love with someone while I am still young. Sometimes I feel like they are being way over the top. I do not feel any impatience or any urgency in my mind in terms of my dating career. Well, a few years ago, I felt a little bit of stress from others. I thought their reactions were embarrassing, when I say that I have been single for five years. However, those reactions do not give me that much stress now because I understand that they advised me with good intentions, not making fun of me. I do not care about it anymore and just laugh it off.
Q. Lastly, do you have something to say to people who are pressuring you to get a girlfriend?
A. Half-serious, I am already stressed out even without your advice! There are lots of people with tons of thoughts and a bunch of opinions. I think it does not matter being single for a few years and furthermore you do not have any reason to worry about my dating career. I love my single life and I do not need a girlfriend right now.
I cannot understand why others judge it as a failure
when the young are not dating someone for a long time.
Female, 24 years old
Dating a boyfriend for about 700 days
Q. For you, what does it mean to have a boyfriend?
A. I think dating is just one kind of human relationship. Some people overstate dating as something great, but I think dating is not that exceptional or a good thing. Rather, compared with other relationships, the only difference is that we feel sexual attraction. Although people would like to associate date with happiness and other positive feelings, such negative feelings like loneliness and anger are inevitable. In my case, I started to date my boyfriend because he was around me at that moment.
Q. Is having a boyfriend necessary in your life? Tell me about your opinion.
A. NO! When I first met my boyfriend, I thought he is a bit different than others. I felt like we might be in a deeper relationship. One day, I realized, “Oh, that relationship is actually what we are doing now.” So, we started to call each other boyfriend and girlfriend. However, while dating him, I have to spend much time and money. Furthermore, to stabilize the relationship, I consumed a lot in many parts. What’s more, I was absent from school to get along with him and spent all my money, too.
Q. Then, are there some pros and cons of being in a relationship?
A. About the pros, I would say happiness that I have never felt before with anyone else. It could have been possible because I tried to lower my expectation. As I have mentioned already, there are cons like spending too much money and time. Besides, one day, the ideal I dreamed of before dating him became stressful. I kept thinking “Why is this relationship not romantic enough?” The answer was that I just waited for him to change while I was not changing at all. Anyways, these days, as I put some distance between us, I got to understand him better.
Q. Lastly, do you think it is necessary for university students to date someone?
A. My friend told me once, “There is the young love that only students can do. If this moment passes, I would never get the chance.” Actually, we should focus on the atmosphere that people consider being single as a failure or a loss. Everyone has the one who fits himself or herself and there is a timing for each of us. I cannot understand why others judge it as a failure when young people are not in a relationship for a long time. Isn’t it rather an exhausting work forcing ourselves to go on a date?
I gained so many things but also lost a lot
during the exchange student program.
Female, 24 years old
Staying in Spain since last July
Q. Why did you decide to apply for the exchange student program?
A. I was influenced by my parents and friends rather than my will. My parents used to say that I should stay in other countries to enlarge my experience. Also, most of my friends went abroad as an exchange student and our university recommends students to apply for it. I am actually not a big fan of travel and not willing to learn a foreign language. Nevertheless, I just thought since everyone participates in it, there is no reason I should not go. In other words, I did not make an independent decision.
Q. Tell me your enjoyable thoughts and hardships while staying in Spain.
A. Thanks to my friends I met here, I made precious memories with them. They were all exchange students and maybe a bond of sympathy developed among us. However, I experienced the worst thing ever in my life: “Racial discrimination” When I walked along the street, some teenagers shouted at me saying “Cheng!” or tapped me on the shoulders and ran away. Sometimes in the restaurant, waiters ignored my gesture to order food, so I had to wait a lot longer than other customers.
I also had an experience in school with a teacher. I took a Spanish class with six students and I was the only Asian. She called my name not even once in the whole semester among all of the students. Further, when students had to take turns and answer the teacher’s question, she always skipped my turn. Finally, I could not endure the situation and I demanded feedback from the school. But, all I got was the attitude that denies this situation. It was not a discrimination but avoiding responsibility. Now I am suffering from trauma and just waiting for the day I can go back home. I gained so many things but also lost a lot during the exchange student program.
Q. Do you have anything to say to students who are considering whether to apply for the program or not?
A. I do not want to recommend the exchange student program if the reason you are considering it includes pressure from others. In general, being an exchange student is described as pleasant memory. However, there are much more things to consider when you stay in other countries. Although I got good memories here, moments that I need to handle came continuously. In those situations that you keep facing hardships, if you have a clear objective you want to achieve, it would be a great help.
In my case, I am now concerned about getting a job, but this experience does not directly help with this matter. As time goes by, my worries multiply. When you are certain you can handle all these things, it might be a good opportunity for you. However, if you are not, then please reconsider your decision.
Everyone around me said I would regret it,
if I do not apply for the exchange student program.
Male, 22 years old
Decided not to apply for the exchange student program
Q. Is there a reason why you finally decided not to attend the exchange student program?
A. When I just entered the university, I thought applying for the exchange student program is essential. I searched a lot on the Internet and most of the articles said the program is the most valuable experience throughout our life.
However, last semester, friends of mine came back from the exchange student program. They told me “If you are an introvert person, then it might be really hard to get used to the atmosphere.” I was already concerned about how I could get along with foreigners and I even need enough time to be close with Koreans! That is why I decided not to participate in it.
Q. Even after you made your decision, didn’t you receive a lot of stress from others?
A. You know it well. Yes, I did. My parents were the first ones who did not understand my decision. I told them I am afraid of not being able to enjoy the time being an exchange student because of my character. It could be a waste of time and money. I spent quite a long time to persuade them.
Also, some of theseniors asked me why I am not applying the program. But you know, their intention was not a question but an advice pushing me I should go. In the past, I asked my friends a lot whether they are applying to be a exchange student. I told you earlier that my friends came back this semester and I think some of the reasons they chose to go are my persuasion. Now I understand how stressful it is.
Q. Please give some advice to students who are confused about what to do.
A. I will tell you three keywords. If you correspond to one of these keywords then consider more: “introvert,” “vulnerable to stress,” and “pressure from others.” However, I hope I am not giving pressure to you to not go. I just want to say if you have to put time into exchange student at least one semester, you should be confident to manage so many things you could encounter.
Seo Yoo-jeong firstname.lastname@example.org
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