Postechian Column: Revelations in an Alternate Reality
Postechian Column: Revelations in an Alternate Reality
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  • 승인 2022.12.10 01:29
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Lotta OksalaExchange student (IME 18)Aalto University
Lotta Oksala
Exchange student (IME 18)
Aalto University

Nowadays, being young means living for the future. Study to get into a good high school, work hard to get into university, do well in university to get a good job, the list goes on. Life is in constant motion forward, towards something. But what happens when we are forced to not think about the future?
I used to comply perfectly with society's orientation on the future. I have always loved planning and had a strong sense of where I wanted to go. That is partly why I surprised myself by setting out for an exchange program to POSTECH. As many people know and the rest can guess, an exchange semester is a hardcore crash course into living in the moment. The span of one semester is aggressively limited, only 110 days. It would be easy to spend the time planning and suddenly notice you have missed most of the experience. Thus, the time limit comes with a huge pressure to make every second count, but on the other hand, it gives a timeout on thinking about the future.
Moving into a new culture with a ticking time limit is like entering an alternate reality with different rules. This reality allows testing our values in laboratory conditions, with minimal distractions. Here, I am not doing things that will make my life easier and better in the future, I am making decisions that make sense for me in this moment. I am not bound by dozens of obligations, but only have one mandatory commitment, to survive school. The lack of outside pressure reveals the underlying (and somewhat daunting) question on what is truly important to me. 
The answer can be found in the small daily choices and overarching reflections on the experience. The choices in our daily life can reveal what we prioritize. Sometimes it might be choosing to get the 1+1 ice cream deal to enjoy a summer moment with a friend. Other times it might be taking some time on my own to recharge. It might even be leaving for Busan for the weekend on less than 24 hours’ notice. The physical and psychological distance from our everyday reality allows us to look at our lives from a different perspective and steer them towards our values. 
Of course, it is impossible to always live out our values to the fullest and enjoy every moment, even though we often equate living in the moment to enjoying the moment. Unfortunately, the saying Carpe diem, seize the day, does not make any promises that we will love the day. Sometimes we feel overwhelmed, lonely, tired, you name it. Even on an exchange program when we are trying to make the most of every day, there are days when the not-so-pleasant side of life presents itself. This weird alternate reality makes us confront the difficult moments head-on, as seizing the day means also embracing the hard days. Instead of escaping into the future and forcing out the negative, giving space also for the hard emotions has helped me to understand my values, needs, and reactions.
Indeed, sometimes focusing on the future can be a form of escapism from the current reality. “I will do that, someday” is something we often say relating to our dreams, pushing the realization of them forward. Still, our lives rarely slow down, and there are always new things occupying our time. Spending time in the Carpe diem reality on an exchange program has challenged me to act based on my values in this very moment, whether it be spending evenings on the jiu-jitsu mat or giving my best to speak in a new language. We should think about the future but making decisions for the present is essential. We can only make it to the future by living through this moment, right?