Spring in KAIST brings effervescent cherry blossoms, juicy strawberries, and warm sunlight — but for the truly “woke” KAIST students, it just brings the looming doom of the midterms and the horrid onslaught of visitors who are drawn to the campus like, well, how couples are drawn to cherry blossom selfies.
But most importantly, for all, spring brings about the time of self-reflection. It is with a schadenfreude type of humor with which we enjoy reading the slightly deranged posts on KaDaejeon during the exam week: they range from the typical millenial jokes of “I want to die” to eventually begging for the professors’ forgiveness for our sins (Thou Shalt Not Start Your Assignment The Night It Is Due). But as we inch towards the tests, many of the posts turn personal and incredibly intimate in a way that delves deep into the fragile psyche of our fellow KAIST members.
Some express the lack of passion for the material that we try to cram into every nook and cranny of our cranium. Some lament and regret their choices of choosing the STEM path. Some claim to have finally lost the energy to trudge through another exam, another class, another assignment, repeatedly banging our heads against the wall like Hubo. Thus, it is no surprise that so many of this volume’s articles touch upon the core frustrations of students, who after years of fighting, have forgotten the meaning of their struggle.
We wonder if it will ever be different. So many of my friends chant the mantra, “I need to leave KAIST,” as though we are desperately digging a hole behind the nupjooki posters for four (for some, ten even) years to escape from this accursed jail. The same old crunch of donkatsu for the fifth time that week only serves to remind us of the bleak regularity we must endure.
It is a darn shame, in this season of sunlight and budding trees, that all we see are the shadows. I’m sure that most students had dreamed fervently of coming to KAIST — all of their blood, tears, and sweat shed during high school culminated in that one joyful moment when they got accepted into the prestigious university. It takes so little time for that happiness to be snuffed out. I fear that for most, myself included, we are running away — from the fear of failure, mediocrity, and humiliation — rather than running towards something.
If we are stuck in an unescapable arena as part of an academic gladiator match, we might as well take up our weapons. On my graduation day, even if I have nothing but a piece of paper under my name, I want to be able to say that I made something of the time. Whatever that is, I’m still not sure. It could be knowledge, people, memories, money — all, or maybe even none of them.
All that said, my heart, too, drops whenever I see my report card or the impressive list of achievements of other students that I could never possess. Exams are difficult and the blossoms (and the ensuing couples!) annoy me more than anything. But when the sweet air occasionally floats by my nose, a small part of me is grateful for the opportunities given to me in this institution.
I wish you the best of luck on your midterms, KAISTians.
Your Greatest Believer,