Alumni Voice


“2020 A Year of Change”

Kokoro Osada

University student (Economics and Political Science)

2020 was a year of change, a year like no other. Over this epochal year, the unprecedented pandemic has forced us to dramatically change the way we work, live, and interact others. Most of us were confined in our homes for the first time, confused as Zoom meetings replaced most interactions we had and were discouraged by the daunting headlines that surrounded us every day. Just like any other individual striving to understand and cope with this situation, I found the past year extremely draining, also given the fact that 2020 had been one of the biggest turning points in my life. As a senior student I was a ‘shukatsu-sei’, the Japanese term referring to students engaging in job hunting activities. Working my way out under the constant pressure from hearing companies cutting down on their hiring positions had been a truly stressful experience. Being unable to reach out to my peers as easily as before and hence the loneliness magnified the anxiety of the experience. Luckily, I was blessed with many kind souls that supported me throughout the year, and was able to land myself a position at a Japanese trading and investment company, a job I had always admired even as a high school student participating in the 2015 TYCA program.

But to look on the bright side, the pandemic allowed me to take a breather, reflect on my life and mend over things I had simply rushed though. Having ample time to spend together as a family was something we had always been longing for, and there was no better way to do so than being quarantined together. Despite the restricted outlet, reaching out to my closest friends and sharing our thoughts also brought us together than ever before. Feeling overwhelmed by the constant, shifting flow of information around the virus, I became more aware of the importance of my physical and mental health, two things I often had little time to consider. After the first wave of COVID-19 gradually died down, I explored new hobbies with my family one of which was hiking, an eye-opening activity perfect for family bonding. In addition, the ‘Go To Travel campaign’, subsidies provided by the Japanese government to promote domestic travel and to boost local businesses, shifted the nation to explore our own backyard, and I too was one of many that were astounded to find the beautiful culture and nature our country had to offer. Despite the physical and emotional isolation we experienced, the unprecedent situation under COVID-19 allowed me to reevaluate the priorities in my life, and opened new doors to different activities I had never taken part in.

Speaker on much broader terms, the COVID-19 has also questioned and overturned conventional notions regarding sovereignty. Under urgent circumstances, the government’s respect for individual privacy and rights did not necessarily lead to an effective containment of the virus. As we have all observed in COVID-19 policies implemented in respective countries, certain levels of enforcement by the government were required to induce people to stay home against their will and keep the situation under control. Surveillance of the public by the government was often condemned and was deemed as an abuse of power. However, although leaving the question of to what extent such exercise of power should be tolerated, COVID-19 has somewhat ‘changed the game’ by proving that certain regimes have stronger endurance to emergency situations as such. In addition, the pandemic has left us challenges in the post-COVID era. Despite the increasing protectionist sentiment across the globe, international cooperation is called for like never before. Governments undoubtedly focus on domestic situations and put the welfare of their public first, hence restricting the exports of essentials such as food and medical supplies. Global economic activity is also at the risk of being brought to a halt with each country applying different quarantining measures of varying degrees. Xenophobic sentiment has also increased among countries as people wrongly seek an outlet for the stress and outrage against the consequences of the COVID-19. Furthermore, the economic situations are widening inequalities, forcing more people to food insecurity, and no access to adequate medical care. Even amidst the inclination to protectionism, it is crucial for nations to together coordinate the development and distribution of the vaccine, and to provide support for those that suffer from the dire circumstances. COVID-19 is what should bring us all together, to share the best of their technologies, unite against the pandemic and to prevent future breakouts of such viruses.


しかし、明るい面を見てみると、パンデミックは一息ついたり、これまでの人生を振り返ったり、これまでにバタバタとこなしていたことを調整する時間を与えてくれました。家族として一緒に過ごす時間を十分に確保することは、私たちが常に切望していたことでした。皆一緒に家に隔離されるのならば、時間を共有することが最善策でしょう。外出制限はありましたが、親しい友人と連絡を取り合い、考えを共有することで、これまでにないほど友情が深まりました。絶えず移り変わる情報の流れに圧倒されていた私は、自分の身体と精神の健康の重要性に気づくようになりました。私は健康面に関してはこれまでに十分配慮をしてきていませんでした。COVID-19の第一波が徐々に収まった後、私は家族と一緒に新しい趣味を探究しました。その一つがハイキングで、家族の絆を深めるのに最適なアクティビティでした。また、日本政府が国内旅行を促進し、地元のビジネスを活性化するために補助金を支給した「Go to トラベルキャンペーン」を利用して、日本の奥深い場所を探索するようになりました。私もまた、日本にある美しい文化や自然に驚かされた一人でした。物理的にも精神的にも孤立していたにもかかわらず、COVID-19という前代未聞の状況は、自分の人生の優先順位を見直す機会を与えてくれて、今まで参加したことのない活動への新たな扉を開いてくれました。



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