Four Matriculations. Four Freshmen Orientations. Four Initiations. This is my third year in Sogang, and I have had the distinct (but somehow painful) honor of participating as both student and journalist in this institution’s largest celebrations. Being part of these gala somehow makes one sentimental. It’s the beginning of a new part in life. In contrast, however, freshmens’ romantic recreation of campus life seem to dwindle year by year. Surveys conducted by The Sogang Herald increasingly indicate their urge to study, but the visible passion for academics isn’t derived from an academic urge itself. It’s due to the increasing fog of uncertainty, derived from a culture of constant observation and mutual comparison.
Korean society systematically inhibits the exaltation of personal desires. Under a grandiose name of “equality in education”, teenagers are subject to a panoptical observation, induced to a constant war of all against all. Middle schoolers try to get into “good” high schools. High schoolers try to get into “good” colleges. This persistent race and ceremonial bestowment of rank creates a culture where recognition and acceptance leads to salvation. All of us were denied many opportunities to seek our own selves, but were forced to let others to quantify our own success.
This exhaustive social structure mutilates the ability to seek self-fullfillment in college. A campus is where the spirits of youth are supposed to blossom, but the fruits of maturity aren’t plucked in college anymore. Instead of granting the freedom and responsibility to reflect and thrive on one’s own, self-crowned guardians, who in fact are meddlers, anticipate for a new set of Hunger Games. Students occasionally depart from the expected, but most of those acts of courage are dull. An escape from class - which, was probably part of a timetable a clueless sophomore made under two minutes - to a PC bang doesn’t seem so pleasing. That freshman probably serves in the military a year later, gets discharged, comes back on campus and “grows up.” Growing up isn’t about taking responsibility for many college students in Korea. It’s about thinking about the “future” and seeking occupational security. It’s about consuming a common ideal and trying to stay on the upper side of whatever social pyramid they believe seems best. Without any soul searching, another young life is misspent and wasted in the hilltops of Nogo Mountain.
In order to “Make Sogang Great Again”, President Yoo Ki-pung has persistently emphasized a Dynamic Sogang where students start up their own companies and dictate an energetic school culture. However, voluntary acts to try out an idea with a high probability of failure isn’t attainable through cramming a summary of the ideology at a study hall. Most of us are yet uncrafted stones, ready to form our own shapes, but reduced to befuddlement before the numerous choices life has to offer. An Albatross chick takes a long time to fledge, learning to fly only after years of falling and tripping. I hope each Albatross gets to choose whatever sky they find fit to glide.