ESB-Student Pascal Kurzawa (IB 2021) hatte große Pläne für 2020: sein Austauschsemester in Seoul und spannende Reisen in die umliegenden Länder. Er beschreibt im Europolitan, wie die Pandemie diese beeinflusst hat, und wie er den Umgang mit Corona in Südkorea erlebt hat. 

ESB student Pascal Kurzawa (IB 2021) had big plans for 2020: his exchange semester in Seoul and exciting trips to the surrounding countries. In the Europolitan, he describes how the pandemic has affected them and how he experienced the handling of Corona in South Korea. 

Dies ist ein Auszug aus unserem Vereinsmagazin, den gesamten Artikel findest Du im Europolitan 3/2020 (Login nötig).

“What a great year this will be!” This was the thought when I finished my last written exam at ESB Business School. Just a few days ago I booked my flight to Seoul, South Korea - where my exchange semester would take place. In addition I was starting to plan a trip to Taiwan and Vietnam to feed the lust for adventure in me. The internship after the exchange was already organized at a financial services company in Singapore. Plans for 2020 could not possibly have been better! I thought nothing was going to destroy my plans … and boy was I wrong.

Exploring Taiwan and Vietnam

[...] After arriving in Seoul in the mid of January it just took me a few days to organize the accommodation for the semester (a cozy yet cheap Goshiwon with 6.5 sqm) and soon I was off to new adventures. The first stop on the journey was Taipei and with it the challenge to climb the highest mountain of Taiwan! The first surprise of the trip. Two friends from ESB were in Taipei at the same time. Thanks to the ESB spirit and network yet again, a meeting was organized quickly and we enjoyed best local food and great views of the city by hiking up Elephant Mountain. [...] Being on this mountain in the middle of the night and starring at the shimmering skyline of Taipei, with Taipei 101 rising as much as 508 meters into the sky. Truly memorable! Afterwards in Vietnam I enjoyed the local cuisine, met more outstanding people and was excited for my exchange semester to begin. This was about the time when Corona started to spread.

Start of the Pandemic

Positive as I am I thought it won’t get too bad and took my flight back to Seoul anyway. Only I realized how serious the situation was when I got back to my Goshiwon. The first mails of my exchange university were out “warning” of an online semester. Many exchange students left after just a few days and basically all the friends I have made within the first week were already gone. [...] Soon family and friends started telling me to come home. Here is the reason why I didn’t: from day one of Corona, South Korea made huge efforts to contain the disease. People were only asked to stay home and to my surprise most did (no forced lockdown) – how disciplined. Trains were relatively empty, everyone was wearing a mask at all times and I frequently was simply “showered” in disinfectant when leaving the metro. At first I thought this was nuts but time showed it was not. I thought if this will be a global pandemic, than South Korea is the place to be! 

A Great Exchange Despite COVID

What was following was a slightly different but still memorable experience. Though courses were held online, there was no forced lockdown, restaurants and gyms remained open and even Bars and Clubs were not shutting down for a while. In between studying I usually found myself with great friends on hiking trips to mountains surrounding Seoul. All it takes is a few stops with the train, a good group and you are on the top of an 800m mountain within 3 hours! How great is that?

Together we also tried every Korean dish that we could find. Thank God we did a lot of sport, our weight gain would have been tremendous if we didn’t. [...] Even at night crowds filled the beautiful parks around Han River. What did people bring there? Just the usual stuff: camping gear, tents, tables, chairs, decoration, fairy lights and sometimes even a projector and a screen. How people managed to bring all this stuff to a park that is not accessible by car still remains a mystery to me.

Personal Summary

Overall the exchange semester has been a very enriching experience. Though it certainly did not went as planned, I connected to great people and made valuable friends. Unfortunately I didn’t met a single native person from my courses and only few Korean students at my partner university. These are clearly the downsides of virtual semesters. Though I have to say that the quality of courses was very high and I especially enjoyed the teaching style of our teacher for Korean language. Professors overall were well prepared for online lectures and I’m happy to say that I’ve managed to gather many new skills in data analysis and coding.  

I’m also happy to announce to have won the biggest Start Up competition in Korea which entitles me to stay longer and to set up a business in Seoul while receiving complete funding, mentorship, an office space and free courses on Korean trade and business. Now the only thing missing is a great team. I’m looking forward to this great experience and the opportunity to build a team on my own before even graduating! I would love to share my experience towards the end of the year with the ESB community but until then stay healthy and safe!

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