[Work, life, balance, and K-dramas] Confessions from behind the lectern


School 2013

By @vongole

I had left my student days behind by the time I got hooked on K-dramas, but the one-more-episode syndrome is familiar from graduate school days. I remember watching Heroes Season 2 over one night. So, there’s empathy when I read about fellow Beanies complaining about their impending exams and, more generally, how studies interfere with their K-drama binges. I recall from Spill the Beans stories that one enthusiastic Beanie lost a school year because of their love for K-dramas.

If you plan to stay on at the university as a professor, the struggle to balance drama-watching with studies does not get any better. The challenge just takes a different form. Students have to study for their grades; professors need to press pause on the finale of Pretty Noona Who Buys Me Food to finish grading answers. Just for the record, for better or for better, I finished the grading and have yet to watch said finale.

We may not need to worry about grades (ours anyway), but sometimes it really is easier to be a student rather than a professor. Students may look bleary-eyed and struggle to stay awake in class after an all-nighter (the drama binge kind, of course). But, that’s not an option for your professor, who has to sound intelligent and inspirational, and definitely not look tired from getting only four hours of sleep due to a drama marathon.


School 2013

On some days, as I am working past midnight fine-tuning that early morning lecture, the temptation to spend the last crucial waking hour on the just-subtitled latest episode of K-drama is strong. Occasionally, I give in. Then I spend the rest of the day feeling guilty. Then I tell myself that the happiness I get from watching dramas makes me better at my work #TVisthe(not-so-new)OpiumoftheMasses.

As those who share my vocation know, academics rarely switch off. How would you stop thinking anyway! (Tried-and-tested answers: Mind-numbing physical work and/or alcohol.) And so, in order to nourish multiple birds from the same feeder, I have looked into the possibility of conducting research on/in South Korea. But I never seriously pursued the tentative opportunities that did come my way because, all things considered, I decided against turning pleasure into work. I watch dramas to feed my soul. To exercise my mind on such matters, I can come to Dramabeans. There are good conversations on dramas and latest trends, and thoughtful essays (no word limit) on the artistic merits and/or “close reading” of Young-Joon’s morning showers in What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim. If you have not submitted the latter yet, you are way past the deadline.


What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim?

Beyond whisking me off to wonderful make-believe worlds and away from work stress, K-dramas have proved helpful in an area of my professional life: to remind me time and time again (okay, mostly through School 2013 and School 2017; so, exactly two times) to never give up on a student.

Teaching errant postgraduate students is not the same as teaching young, impressionable minds in a high school. My students are adults and I like to treat them as such; and, if I had to choose a role model from the dramas I have watched, it’d probably be the Witch in Cheese in the Trap and not Jang Nara’s character in School 2013. Learning spaces are precious in these times of intense competition and funding cuts in higher education. Everyone has their story, even the bully and the serial plagiarist. Like Se-chan, I have taken cues on patience and understanding from In-jae in School 2013. Unlike him who’s caught in the world of the writers’ making, I can escape to the dramaverse when it all gets to be too much.


School 2013

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