IN HIGH school, we dreamed of walking along Baekyang-ro elegantly as Yonseians. However, in reality, reading assignments, term papers and exams often seem to be the only things waiting for us. University students have to live up to many expectations as students while engaging in various activities. And if you’re lucky enough to have a boyfriend or girlfriend, 24 hours is not enough. Likewise, there are so many things to do as a college student, yet so little time to complete them. With such lack of time, Hyu-hak , a leave of absence, rose up as an option that students recently consider seriously.
Hyu-hak, not special anymore
According to statistics from 2003 to 2013 provided by the Office of Academic Affairs, the percentage of students who apply for Hyu-hak (not including Hyu-hak for military entry) each semester has fluctuated between 10% and 16% for the last 10 years among Yonseians. In 2012, about 13.8% and 13.2% of students, respectively in the first and second semesters, took a leave of absence. This means that more than 1 out of every 10 students enrolled in Yonsei University are currently based away from campus. According to a survey conducted by The Yonsei Annals with nearly 600 Yonseian respondents, 45.9% answered that they have experienced Hyu-hak during their college years. Note that Hyu-hak here excludes Hyu-hak for military entry. Even though there is a larger portion of students who have never experienced Hyu-hak than those who did, it is worth noting that those who have not were mostly freshmen and sophomore students. 74.5% of seniors and 54% of juniors answered that they have experienced Hyu-hak during their college years, and students who were planning to take Hyu-hak later on also reached 32.7%. Seeing the portion of senior and junior students that have experienced Hyu-hak , and that of freshmen and sophomores that are planning to, it can be said that considerably large portion of Yonseians are likely to go on Hyu-hak during their college years.
Hyu-hak, time to rest
Then what do Yonseians do during Hyuhak ? One might expect students to spend their extra semester of Hyu-hak developing their “spec,” considering the insecure prospects university students face nowadays. Indeed, youth unemployment has become a serious social issue, prompting many university students to accumulate higher “specs” than their peers to establish a competitive edge and find a decent job. However, 20.4% of respondents answered they simply took a “rest” during their Hyu-hak . And the numbers further show that Yonseians opt for rest over work, not because they failed to follow through with already set plans, but because they planned from the outset to take a full rest during Hyu-hak . 35.7% of students answered that they wanted “to take a timeout and reflect on [themselves],” and 13.7% of students answered that they decided to Hyu-hak to “make special experiences.” In sum, about 49.4% of Yonseians answered that they applied for Hyu-hak to take their own time, rather than focusing on exams and internships. The survey results also indicate that most Yonseians go on Hyu-hak during their junior year. About 24.7% took a semester off in their first semester of junior year, and 18.8% did so in their second semester of junior year. Since the third year of college is one step before becoming a senior, those entering their junior year often seem to desire some time away from the busy campus life to find their true selves, pondering their future pathways. As for how long students go on Hyu-hak, the result showed that in most cases it was under a year. 41% of the respondents answered that they left for a semester, while 32.5% answered that they left for a full academic year. Meanwhile, 26.5% answered they took Hyu-hak for more than a year. Thus, although many students are positive about taking Hyu-hak , they prefer to rest for less than a year. Also, the length of time Yonseians spent on planning what to do during Hyu-hak was relatively short. 30.1% of respondents answered that they had no specific plans for the semester off, while 39.0% answered that they planned “less than three months” in advance. In short, about 69% of students who experienced Hyu-hak either did not make a specific plan in advance of their semesters off or did so in a relatively short time.
Hyu-hak, a good choice
Then how do Yonseians evaluate their Hyu-hak experiences? More than half (56.5%) of the respondents who have experienced Hyu-hak answered that it was satisfying. Only about 16.3% of students answered that they were dissatisfied with their Hyu-hak experience. Moreover, more than half (54.1%) of the respondents, including students who experienced Hyuhak as well as students who did not, responded that Hyu-hak might have a positive impact on their eventual career and their grades upon returning to school. Only about 7.6% of respondents held a negative view toward Hyu-hak ’s impact. Considering that many students spend their Hyu-hak time resting, such positive views about the effects of Hyu-hak reveals a large segment of Yonseians’ hunger for a break in their formal education and informal campus life. Park Se-bin (Soph., Dept. of Econ., UIC) who plans to Hyu-hak said that, “Many of my seniors told me that university years are the time when we can try and experience diverse things.” When students graduate and get a career, there is not much time left for them to take a break and reflect. So they decide to take their own time now before taking a step into the world outside campus. Likewise, many Yonseians are thinking not only about getting a good job, but also about improving their quality of life as a whole.
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Hyu-hak tells us a lot about Yonseians. According to the survey, Yonseians looked favorably upon having a break away from busy university life and taking time for themselves. Few Yonseians saw it as a waste of time, while many viewed it as a meaningful, and even necessary time for their future. So, if you are feeling exhausted about your college life, going on Hyu-hak might not be a bad idea.