A lot of university students are suffering from Dae2bbyung, feeling depressed and lethargic and worried about their future.
/Illustrated by Lee Da-young
“I am lethargic these days, and I am not sure about the future. I think I have a Dae2bbyung.” Nowadays, the word “Dae2bbyung” has become a common word among university students. The word is a newly coined term describing university students who are struggling with their lives and are finding it hard to live due to the economic depression. Many people may have heard of “Jung2bbyung” in Korea. Jung2bbyung is a word made to indicate the psychological state, such as bravado, which is said to be the characteristic of second graders in middle school. Likewise, Dae2bbyung is also used to refer to the university student’s psychological state such as depression or uncertainty of future.
The meaning and symptoms of Dae2bbyung
Many university students are struggling with uncertain futures. It is usually the second year of university that students begin to experience this, which is the reason why this phenomenon is called Dae2bbyung. Simply, Dae2bbyung is the sudden lethargy and depression that university students suffer. In 2016, the word was used for the first time, and there was also a documentary about it. Then, recently, the economy became worse and finding a job became more difficult, so the word became popular again. Yun Ye-eun, a psychology counselor, said “Life becomes lethargic as the period of adjustment and excitement of freshman year is over. It is because from this period, one has to start thinking about the reality.”
The symptoms of Dae2bbyung are as follows. The students keep thinking about their career but cannot find an answer. They do not feel passion for their studies and do not even know the reason that they are studying their major. Therefore, they choose to take a leave of absence, change major, or a working holiday, and if this phenomenon becomes serious, they think about dropping out of school. Also, they fall into self-destructive behavior comparing themselves with their peers around them.
Dae2bbyung is a serious problem that needs to be solved, not just a fad that can be ignored. For young individuals, if this situation continues, Dae2bbyung will inflict negative effects on self-identity and self-esteem. This, in turn, results in negative consequences of comparing themselves with others. Since they do not have a clear vision, they become depressed again and again.
According to the Health Insurance Review & Assessment Service, the number of youths suffering from depression jumped about 30 percent over a four-year period. The main cause of depression was employment. As such, depression among Korean youth is gradually increasing.
Psychological pressure causes Dae2bbyung
First of all, extreme job shortages cause fear and anxiety among students. Yun Ye-eun said, “The goal of most university students is to get a great job. But if they find it difficult to get a job, they would be very skeptical about their school life because the big reason why they came to university disappears.” As such, nowadays, with the severe job shortage, many students feel lethargy even before they challenge since the barriers of employment look solid on the news. Cho Eun-se, a job seeker, said “The job seems to be too limited. Now, it is not enough for us to do our best to get a job. But I do not know what we have to do beyond our best. This is the reason I feel lethargic whenever I think about getting a job.”
Many students have less faith in their departments and worry about their future. Or some students do not think their departments are right for them to study and do not know why they should take the course. This naturally leads to neglecting relationships with peers, seniors and juniors. Also it causes problems in interpersonal relationships. In these cases, most students are considering changing their major, but even if they do, the situation does not change because they are still unsure what they want to do after they graduate.
Furthermore they are constantly comparing themselves to others. Due to the excessive competitive society, it is natural to compare oneself with others. In the process of comparing themselves with others, they are subject to stress and anxiety. Many young people are increasingly depressed by comparing themselves to students who have adapted themselves to their studies. Also, they feel miserable when they see others’ happiness and successful lives on SNS.
Jung (25), Female said, “I used to do a lot of SNS activities like Instagram. Recently, however, it is very hard to enter SNS. I am doing nothing without achieving anything, but everyone else’s daily lives on SNS looks so happy.” She also added, “Of course, I know and try to think that they will only post good things on SNS and their lives will not be much different from mine. Nevertheless, when I see such posts, I just keep comparing me with others and feeling depressed with my life.”
The essential cause of the problem is the education system
Then, why are students not adapted to their studies and do not know what they like? The most fundamental cause of the problem lies in pre-college education. Korean students have always spent school life only in the form of reading, writing and memorizing in the education of elementary, middle and high school. In other words, education in Korea is a form of learning system where the content of learning should be unconditionally memorized, and one’s opinion does not matter. In this type of learning, it is natural that there are no questions and answers about themselves, such as what they like. Almost all of the students who are simply living on the goal of getting good grades, entering a good university and staying in a stable department, have been given little time to test their abilities or find their aptitude. In the end, many students will grow up without breaking the serious triangle of "College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT)-University-Dae2bbyung."
There are various types of Dae2bbyung
Many university students are suffering because of Dae2bbyung. As a result, different forms of Dae2bbyung are being revealed, such as leave of absence, changing one’s major, going abroad as an exchange student, and dropping out of school.
Type1. Leave of absence
Lee, 23-year-old, Male, Seoul National University of Science and Technology
Q. Why did you choose leave of absence?
A. Last year, I took a military vacation and returned to school. I tried to concentrate on my original study again, but I could not. Originally, I knew the content of the department was not right for me, and it really did not motivate me to study my major again. So I chose to take a leave of absence again.
Q. What did you do during this time?
A. I tried to think about what I really want to study for a job, but the answer did not come out. I am just doing a part-time job without thinking about my life.
Q. How do you feel after taking a leave?
A. Actually, I do not know well. At first, I tried to find out what I want to do. However, as I said earlier, I could not find out. I thought it would be better if I took a break from school, but as days go by, I worry about my future. I do not know whether I should go back to school or not next semester.
Q. What is your biggest concern nowadays?
A. My biggest concern is that while I am agonizing like this, others decide their careers well and get a job quickly. In fact, I repeated a college entrance exam and it made me a year behind, and I went to the army, which made me two years late. And now, it is delayed even further with this concern. I am so nervous since I feel I am left behind compared to others.
Type2. Changing major
Ahn Jeong-soo, a Sophomore of Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering
of Dongguk University
Q. Why did you choose to change major?
A. When preparing for university, I thought I had interest in Industrial and Systems Engineering so I applied to that department. As a freshman last year, I did not have certainty of what I really wanted to do, so I started to look for the study I had really wanted to do by taking classes of various cultural subjects and basic subjects of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE). In this process, I found out that I had much more interest in subjects such as Chemistry and Life Science than my major. As a result, I thought that I would have an aptitude in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering study than Industrial and Systems Engineering study so I decided to change my major.
Q. Do you satisfy with your new major study?
A. Now I can study in more depth in fields that I am interested in after I change my major. Since my study fits with me well, I am very satisfied. I am studying with interest and fun.
Q. How do you feel after changing major?
A. My school life is more fun because I am doing the study which feel like the very right study I have been looking for. Especially, I think it is good that I have gotten to know more people of the department and that I can do more career-related activities through clubs in the department.
Q. Is there anything you want to do or achieve?
A. I want to do Research and Development (R&D) and graduate school, so I am planning on going to graduate school. Until then, I would like to do various activities, such as department clubs, factory tours and exchange students that I can do in my undergraduate course. Also, I would continue to study my major hard as it is important to fully understand my major.
Type3. Going abroad as an exchange student
Park, 21-year-old, Female of Dongguk University
Q. Why did you decide to go abroad as an exchange student?
A. When I was a freshman, I thought I wanted some rest so I started to agonize over leaving of absence or going abroad as an exchange student. I decided to go abroad as an exchange student since I wanted to experience school abroad. Also, I thought I could get some break having fun by doing so.
Q. How are you spending time these days?
A. I came here, Germany, as an exchange student and I am enjoying such a free and peaceful life. Especially, I am spending a happy time traveling around and cooking Korean food with my foreign friends except for days that I have classes.
Q. Do you have any academic related concern?
A. No, here in Germany, I do not feel any academic stress or burden at all.
Type4. Dropping out of school
Lim Jae-young a Sophomore of the Department of Biomedicinal Science and Biotechnology of Pai Chai University
Q. What caused you to drop out of school?
A. I chose to drop out of school because my department was not suitable for me.
Q. Do you have any plans to do after dropping out of school?
A. There are no definite plans yet. Maybe I will just continue with my parents’ family business, since I do not know what to do and what I like.
Q. Is there anything you want to do or achieve?
A. There were a lot of things and goals I wanted to do in the past, but when I think of it now, I can remember nothing. If I could change my major, I would transfer to the Department of Trade since my parents work in trade.
Q. Do you have any feelings or thoughts you felt when you dropped out of school?
A. When I was filling out my resignation, I thought I should not have come to school from the beginning. Since my college life was aimless, I even did not have any motivation to study. I felt sorry for my parents and I chose to drop out of school because it was too expensive to pay for each semester. For me, it was a waste of time and money. This is the reason why I chose to drop out of school, not changing major or considering other options.
A student who has Dae2bbyung is writing down about "what she does well" and "what she likes" in order to overcome Dae2bbyung following expert’s advice.
/Photograph by Lee Da-young
We can overcome Dae2bbyung
Planning for the future is extremely important. Planning shows that one is serious about one’s life and through this, one’s life can be improved. However, staying too long at this stage of Dae2bbyung can be hazardous. There are two potential strategies for improving this, one is personal and the other is institutional.
Psychological factors that come from unemployment, dissatisfaction in one’s major and comparison with others can be resolved through the following solutions, which can be classified into personal aspects. First, one can take a break, thinking about oneself. Yun Ye-eun said, “It would be better to shake off heavy thinking about the future and put energy elsewhere by creating hobbies for stress relief or self-improvement.” She also added, “Concentrating on what he/she can do well also matters. Ridiculous as it seems, but just write down seriously ‘what I do well’ and ‘what I like,’ taking time, to find your aptitude.” Other than these, you can actively visit counseling center to listen to the expert’s advice.
Systems for students’ future should be introduced
On the other hand, to solve fundamental problems, improvement in the educational system is essential. The education system that only aims at making students enter university should be resolved through the solutions as follows.
Since the primary cause of the occurrence of Dae2bbyung is related to the education system, we need to reform the present one-sided education system. It is common that teachers give a lecture to students. However some students have difficulties understanding the lecture. The documentary SBS special “Dae2bbyung, asks school,” suggested that so-called “reverse learning” is necessary. Reverse learning is a self-reliant method where students learn about the key points before the lecture through videos and lead class themselves by debating. On the inside of this learning method, there are questions. Students get to ask oneself whether they have understood well about the lecture.
In Denmark, which is regarded as the happiest country, students do not know about Dae2bbyung. This is because they have a different education system. They have chances to learn about what they like, what they want to work on and what will bring them happiness. Their educational structure makes them experiment with lots of different things. In Denmark, “Hygge” culture is dominant, which refers to a comfortable and simple life pursued by Danish people. In other words, the term Hygge is defined as time spent with special people. This Hygge culture has influenced Denmark’s education. In Denmark, they have a system named “Folk high school,” which gives youth a gap year of one to two years so that they can prepare one’s future. “Gap year” refers to the period of time when students can experience a variety of activities such as volunteer work, travel, career exploration, education, internships and start-ups, before setting their future. Folk high school is a free school attended by adults over the age of 18 and is also called a “civil university” and “school for life.” There are approximately 70 Folk high schools all over Denmark, and Danish students get into the school during the gap year and have the time to know oneself by learning art or humanities. Children who have been educated and raised in this Hygge culture gain self-determination and can lead their own lives. If the Korean education system benchmarks Denmark’s Hygge education, students in Korea may also be able to plan one’s life and find out their real preference. Also, they should try to have mental relaxation that comes from Hygge culture.
The free semester system is a system in Korea that requires students to take various student-led and career-searching activities away from the general curriculum-oriented tests. Schools that educate students through this system are carrying out more diverse activities in their classes. Through this, children can find something they are interested in. We should continue to provide such opportunities to them. Children will be able to perform in ways that parents and teachers did not think of at all, through various activities. These free semester systems should be used to help children feel free of the pressure of exams and find their dreams through diverse experiences.
This matter would take time to be solved. Schools must strive to boost the students’ potential capabilities and the society should also build up a foundation to create such systems. “Who am I?” “What am I going to live for?” Dae2bbyung is usually a time when a student encounters problems they should have faced when they were younger. However, people should ask these questions even if it is late. They have to take time to find their own answer. People around them should give them space and wait calmly with patience student suffering from Dae2bbyung and the surrounding people as well should wait until they find their own path. Just as patients can realize their illness and lead a better life when their illness is treated. Dae2bbyung will disappear when people ask more questions and become the subject of their own education.
Lee Da-young, Kwon Min-jeong email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
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