Senior international student shares thoughts on Covid19 shutdown experience

This picture taken from the balcony of Sanggyeom Kim’s apartment on April 24 shows the streets of Cheonan, South Korea mostly empty. Before the virus, this street would be filled with people for most of the day.

In the first week of spring break, I remember my mom telling me, “You should probably consider coming back to Korea.” Because my parents and family members in Korea already experienced the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, they knew how it would affect the global community.

I had no idea what to say to her. I questioned myself, “Will it be that bad here?” As an international student, the first thing that came to my mind was how I’m going to finish my senior year?, not really whether I would be safe or not.

One of my biggest concerns was graduation. Even though my parents were certain that there would be zero school activities this school year, I still doubted them.

Watching local news and SNS posts from my country, I started to realize that it’s not the same as the flu, it’s something more than that. The fact that people in Korea were starting to take this virus seriously made me worry about my family and friends there, so I started to wonder if my mother was right.

Moreover, the fact that almost everyone started to wear a facial mask every day clearly showed the true reality of the situation that other countries would eventually face.

Then, the week after spring break, I noticed that a lot of international students in the U.S. were going back to their permanent home addresses. Most of them were recommended by the school to go back to their home countries because they valued the students’ well-being and safety.

After that, I decided to go back to Korea because I believed staying here wouldn’t make a difference. I also felt called to help my local community by volunteering by distributing meals or medical supplies. Since I have returned to my home, I have been volunteering by cleaning the nursing home.

Due to high demand, but also a lot of cancellations,, airline tickets to Korea skyrocketed from $1,800 to $8,000 at the highest. Fortunately, I found a ticket with a reasonable price and booked it with no hesitation. I flew back to South Korea on April 9.

Before this though, I stayed at the home of Mason Matukewicz ‘20 for almost a month. Staying with his family, I had a great opportunity to share different perspectives on the current issue. Although we struggled to stay inside with boredom at the beginning, we each found our ways to stay healthy inside, TikTok for my case. Living in the school as a 7-day boarder, I had less opportunity to get along with other families and be treated like a family member. Thanks to the great hospitality of Matukewicz’s family, my three weeks of spring break was so enjoyable.

One thing I still can’t quite overcome is the feeling of separation from my classmates. We are owed a graduation, whether the graduation will be held in person or online. I think the whole closure is affecting seniors the most because we were robbed of one of the best times of our lives. I’d be glad to see my fellow classmates get that chance in the near future even though I may not make it back.

The Mount is produced by the students of Mount Michael Benedictine School.