It is often assumed among the students of SIS that high school is a time to compromise enjoyment and personal preference for academic success and building accomplishments. Any action that goes against this principle is frowned upon, and people who make such decisions are viewed as those with priorities that are different from the majority of the student population. Decisions that require a process of prioritization are made more frequently than intuitively expected, which can be attributed to the limited amount of time students have and the choices of commitments they must make. Yet regardless of how students decide to spend their time, it is important to recognize and constantly be aware of the fact that every decision, and the accumulation of such decisions, will ultimately be what shapes their high school experience.
Choices regarding time commitment include both short-term and long-term, and can be applied in various contexts. For instance, it is commonplace to hear students complain about their parents not allowing them to join sports teams or drama productions, fearing that it will interfere with their academic performance. The unfortunate truth is that the culture of Korea and SIS predominantly prioritizes academics above all else, in many cases regardless of individual preference or opinion. This is not to criticize the state of Korean education; in fact, such phenomenon was one of the main reasons why the Korea’s labor force is one of the most educated and skilled in the world.
But sometimes, there is a need to magnify. Put aside the doctor you could become if you go to X college, the hundredth percentile GPA boost you could get if you raise your English grade by one point, or the potential extra glance at your application an admissions officer at X college would give you if you took an extra SAT II Subject Test, and look to the present.
Jumping into the last semester of my senior year, as many seniors would agree, there has inevitably been much time and many opportunities for reflection: what has high school been like overall? What would we do differently? What do we truly remember, on the brink of exiting a stage of our lives we thought would never end?
Yes, the sleepless nights, failed tests, and having to read American classics will be remembered. But the memories we reflect fondly upon are not those spent alone, whether that be in a hagwon or in our rooms. Perhaps this could be ascribed to human nature, which seeks interaction with others, both physically and emotionally. Undeniably, time spent with those we shared our high school experience will be what we will most longingly recall. And the decisions we make regarding our time will determine what we walk away with at the end of our high school journey.
While this has evolved into what seems like a sentimental elderly childhood recount, the point of all such is to say that how you choose to spend your time matters. Doing so, for me, has been through participating in sports; being part of the volleyball and basketball teams has been an experience that has given me invaluable friendships, learning opportunities, and memories that I will cherish far beyond high school. At the same time, I know that not everybody has the same interests and likings. Yet regardless of your hobbies or passions, there are always ways to connect more with others in our school community. Look for strangers (friends you haven’t met!) to befriend, spend more time with those you love, and try new things you wish you had tried but always pushed off. Most importantly, try to find a healthy balance between academic success and enjoyment. Before you know it, it might be too late.