A Roller Coaster Journey: The Academe Life of a Filipino Scholar in the Time of a Pandemic


The coronavirus has taken the entire world by storm since it has greatly impacted the personal lives of everyone. As the development of the vaccine is still underway, we continue to do our daily tasks and adapt to this “new normal”. South Korea’s response to COVID-19 is considered one of the world’s success stories and fewer restrictions have been imposed on its citizens as compared to other countries. Nevertheless, everybody’s lives have been changed, and this includes the PIKO members who are pursuing their studies here in Korea. In this regard, PIKO member Maurelio Cabo Jr. shares his experiences about living and studying in Korea while coping with the pandemic.

It isn’t a smooth ride (of course), but I can say I did manage. I’ve worked in the industry for 6 years, wherein my work requires to manage and give a command to production workers in all related quality control issues and conformities. But in the academe, I need to forget that I have authority. I need to adjust, so you may picture the struggle, it is so real. I need to be technically naked. When I came to South Korea, honestly, I was expecting a lot of pressure. Due to the pandemic, somehow, it helped to lessen the pressure. Only one out of my four subjects required us to have a face-to-face session, while the other three classes were purely online. The academic burden of attending the classes on time was lesser.

This pandemic also gave uncertain feelings towards my colleagues. Because we are required to attend Saturday Laboratory meetings for us to give updates about what we’ve done so far regarding our own research, we felt as if we are in a trap of “Schrödinger’s Uncertainty Principles,” acting as if we have or do not have the virus. The fear of getting the virus was always there, and we can’t blame anyone. Likewise, the language barrier is the topmost problem I had as a student here in South Korea. Unfortunately, most of my classmates cannot communicate well due to poor English skills. Thus, I need to make sure I’m using the simplest words and almost “chop” English sentences for them to comprehend what I’m trying to convey. On the other hand, I appreciate the diversity we have in our group because I’m a culture freak!

After finishing one semester and getting a perfect GPA (4.5/4.5), I learned that South Korea’s Graduate School was designed to help students to be more research-based students rather than grade conscious because of the demands of coursework. The mixture of traditional grading systems from numerous exams, assignments, and quizzes to oral weekly research presentations gave more active platforms for international grad school students to improve themselves. So far, I’m enjoying my stay. And I strongly recommend choosing South Korea as your ticket to earning your higher degree of education. As they always say: “Enjoy your Korean life!”

About the contributor: Before coming to Korea, Mau worked at Accenture Philippines for 5 years then proceeded to build his career in Saudi Arabia for 6 years. He is currently an MS Mechanical Engineering student and studies at Changwon National University. He intends to continue his Ph.D. after he finishes his master’s degree. He loves to travel, and photography is one of his sidelines.

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