Why would a young person, on the threshold of their studies, decide on Economics?
From the perspective of my fifth year of studies, I think that, in some way, I was ‘destined’ to study Economics. As long as I can remember, I have always been interested in money. As a child, of course it was terribly crude, but just having money brought me great pleasure. As a teenager with an interest in the world around me I understood that, in fact, it's all about money, that basically everything comes down to money and it decides about everything around us and rules the world. Money was not my only interest, it was however the opinion that it is knowledge of economics, not history or law, that would give me a decent and prosperous life in the future. During the course of my studies, it turned out that I was decidedly more at home in economic matters than the majority of my peers, particularly in the case of issues related to economic theory. At that point, I also reached the conclusion that studying economics was probably the best choice I could have made. The ‘love’ of money that I’ve mentioned also came out in my choice of specialisation – International Finance and Banking. I believed that this very specialisation could develop my interests and it turned out I was right. As early as my second year, I knew that I wanted a future connected with monetary policy and the financial system, so International Finance and Banking was a natural choice. It was also important that the course is rated by the Foreign Ministry as the best specialisation in International Economic Relations, taken by the best students. There was never any unhealthy competition among us, rather unspoken mutual motivation to give more, which I think also had an influence on me wanting to do more than the average student.
Do you intend to stay at the university after your studies and concentrate on theoretical work, or would you rather throw yourself into the maelstrom of using your knowledge in practice?
I definitely want to widen my knowledge. Monetary policy and the financial system, i.e. my main economic interests, partly given their nature, are subject to constant change and they continually adapt to changes in the reality of the economic world, and they themselves have an enormous influence on the whole economic system. It would be wonderful to be able to observe changes in monetary theory as they occur, and maybe to be able to have an impact on them myself one day. I certainly associate staying at the university with teaching. I think that I would derive great pleasure from shaping the minds and views of young people, although I’m well aware of what a responsibility it is. Through observing other students, I have come to the conclusion that many of them have no views, or that their views are inconsistent or even ‘harmful’. If I had the chance to teach students, I’d like to use it as best I could and, as far as possible, bring them round to liberal, free-market views.
What have been your academic successes so far?
I have written three articles on the process of transformation of Korea into a Japanese colony in the late 19th/early 20th century, the banking system in the Republic of Korea and German public finance in the face of demographic change, the last of these together with Anna Bendykowska. An article on the socio-cultural determinants of the economic success of the Republic of Korea is awaiting publication. I play an active role in the activities of student circles, both International Finance and the University of Gdańsk’s interdepartmental “Erasmus Student Network”. I see it as an exceptional honour to find myself amongst the winners of the University of Gdańsk’s Rector’s Prize in 2012-2013, 2013-2014 and 2014-2015. I was also awarded a scholarship from the Marshall of the Pomeranian Voivodeship for the academic year 2012-2013. Having my BA thesis published on the Internet site of the Mises Institute, a free-market think-tank, is something I can also count as an academic success.
You have also taken part in a student exchange in Korea. Why that country in particular? Was it your first stay in the country? If so, were your expectations confirmed in any way or were they different from the reality?
In my case, the choice of South Korea was quite an easy one, although it was not only my first visit to Korea but also my first visit to Asia. I decided that if I did go on a student exchange in the end, it would not be a decision that a lot of people would make. Of course, there were negative sides to the choice but I wouldn’t have changed it. In taking the decision to go to South Korea, what was important was the distance from home – if you’re going to travel, then go to the other side of the world; the fact that I knew people in Korea I had met on a student exchange at the UG; Korean pop music, which I really like, although it is quite peculiar; that I like doing atypical things – a lot of people are interested in Japan or China, but Korea is much less popular, so I wanted to experience something less ‘blasé’.
Korea is in a completely different sphere of civilisation to Poland. European countries are essentially similar, Korea differs from them in many regards. Before the exchange I had no idea how many, and what’s more, for a long time I saw more similarities than differences, but this started to change relatively late, more or less at the beginning of 2015. What possibly surprised me most was people’s behaviour at concerts – I think that in Poland (and in the rest of Europe, I’m sure), we show our pleasure more with applause, while in Korea they do it with shouts and screams. I felt uncomfortable surrounded by Koreans and having to listen to their terrifying screams for two hours. I think that when I return, I might not be able to write a book on the eccentricities of the Koreans, which sometimes made a great impression, but certainly a series of articles.
I am currently doing my second semester in South Korea at Kyungpook National University in Daegu. According to the CSIC ranking, it is the sixth best university in Korea and the second National University. Daegu is the fourth biggest city in Korea (as regards number of residents) with a population around 2.5 million (an enormous difference for someone like me, who hadn’t lived anywhere bigger than Sopot). It is also the hottest city in Korea, which I experienced for myself on the day I arrived – the temperature at midnight wasn’t very different from the temperature in Poland in the middle of the day. Kyungpook has an enormous campus, where I ‘managed’ to get lost in my first week. There is literally everything on campus, sports halls, academic buildings, halls of residence, a museum, an art gallery, a sixteen-storey building made of glass, a park, a fountain and places for informal meeting after classes.
What is your hobby? Of course, that is, if you have time for one?
Of course I find time for a hobby. Music is probably my greatest hobby – even if I’m just popping out for a minute, I take my mobile and headphones so that I can cut myself off from the noise around me, if only for a few minutes. I mainly listen to Korean and British music that you can hear on the radio and find in the charts. I really like strategy games, especially the ones with an element of economics. I’m also interested in history, particularly the age of European imperialism, and international politics.