I thought it would be over quickly and people were overreacting. “It’s just strong flu, calm down for God’s sake,” is what I told my anxious mother as she found it difficult to handle the fact that our house was lacking masks. I did not understand why people were making such a big deal out of the whole coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) situation. I mean, it’s not like the virus instantaneously kills or inflicts permanent damage, right? Just use common sense; cover your mouth when sneezing, wait for new medication and, things will probably settle down in 2 to 3 months. I laughed at people for excessively panicking and took pride in the fact that unlike them, I was able to remain composed and rational. This was me during the second week of February. Unfortunately, it did not take long for me to realize that I was heavily mistaken. Neither was I rational nor making accurate assumptions, I was simply ignorant and naively optimistic.
Within a few days, the number of infected rosed rapidly. Only on the first day of March, there were 1,062 newly infected. It took 10 days for the numbers to rise from a mere 100 to 1,062. By the end of March, South Korea contained a total of 9,661 patients. Among them, 158 were already dead. Furthermore, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic. Now, it was serious and even a dummy like me noticed. Soon, cities felt deserted with grocery stores, gyms, restaurants, cafes, and public libraries closing. People were barely visible on the streets except for when they formed long lines in front of pharmacies to purchase masks that were quickly running out of stock. The tight masks made even the most talkative, voiceless, and all pleasant sounds were disrupted by the annoying ringing of the mobile phones, constantly describing the viciousness of the virus. It was as if Mother Earth was punishing us all, for taking our ordinary lives for granted. The world was becoming a ghastly place. The government advised people to limit outdoor activities. My biggest concern was related to school. It was March, which meant the break was over. It was time to return to SKKU, but this was not possible. Fortunately, the university implemented quick changes by making all classes online. At first, I wondered, “Is this even viable? Would the school be able to provide education of sufficient quality this way?” I was skeptical, but my skepticism soon turned into admiration. To my surprise, online classes did not just mean recorded lectures. Many professors used ‘Webex’ to open live sessions which closely imitated offline classes. As the system was relatively new, both professors and students struggled at first but quickly adapted, and eventually, we were having debates and discussions online. This was a whole new experience. We weren’t physically in school yet doing things as if we were. “Dang, this is revolutionary,” I thought to myself. The system not only allows the providers and consumers to distribute and receive education from places of their preferred choices, but time and money were also being saved because its only requirements are access to the internet and a computer. However, not everyone was satisfied. The classes being online meant that even exams were held online. This made it difficult to prevent cheating so grading involved a certain extent of unfairness. Also, courses that focus on performing experiments or practical activities could not be delivered because obviously, such things cannot be done when the students are at home. Despite some downsides, I am appreciative of how the implementation of online classes has allowed me to continue studying. Such an experience would have been unimaginable for my ancestors. Also, the undeniable fact is that we as students, teachers, and staff of educational institutes are doing our best as a group to continue moving forward. COVID-19 is a problem that needs to be fixed. However, on the bright side, the crisis is allowing us to experiment with technology, more closely experience technology, and use technology to tackle challenges. In the long run, these could be used as fuel for the advancement of humanity. We should never forget, as Benjamin Franklin once said, “Out of adversity comes opportunity.”
Chang Seok-ha (Economics) 2020 Essay Contest 1st place