By Soomin Chun & Nicholas Kim
SIS is widely known among other Korean international schools and colleges alike for its highly competitive environment. Walking through the hallways of our high school building, tourists can experience a zombie apocalypse in our sleep-deprived students who are deaf to the calls of their friends and blind to the blooming flowers in the atrium. Yet there is one difference between your everyday zombie apocalypse and our students: they will be the most talented and hardworking zombies you have ever met in your life. Although SIS students are quick to turn a pessimistic eye to their competitive environment, zoom out a little and the fruits of their long-term labor are evident all around the campus.
Many people are quick to crinkle their brows at just the word “stress,” but it doesn’t have to carry such a negative connotation. In “The Upside of Stress: Why Stress is Good” by Kelly McGonigal, she explains three basic principles: stress is only harmful if you believe it is, happy lives also include stress, and stress can create extra energy to boost productivity. Such a high-stress environment such as SIS is the perfect setting to dive into these principles.
Starting from the third principle, hard work and stressful situations do pay off, and quite well. SIS students cash-in big for all their efforts as seen in the most standard measure of high school performance: SAT scores. The average old SAT score at SIS in 2016 was 2202 out of 2400, a whopping 712 points above the worldwide average which stands at 1490. SAT scores are just a number, but SIS students are also winning awards from all over the world in areas ranging from writing to scientific research to psychology. Outside of the academic spectrum, SIS boasts amazing artists, musicians, and singers that perform at big venues or even use their talents to bring happiness to others, like when the art students made portraits of Congo children. Outside of all that, SIS students even have time for athletics, with some of our sports teams being the best in our KAIAC division.
This is not to minimize the pressure that students are faced with. Teachers and students will unanimously proclaim their acknowledgment for the heavy workload and expectations placed upon the shoulders of each student, but Nobel Prize winners didn’t come from complacent workers with an 8 to 5 schedule. Satisfied and meaningful lives where people accomplished big things came from hours of dedication, often under atmospheres of extreme tension and soaring expectations. But this satisfaction is not mutually exclusive to stress–people can be stressful and happy at the same time, so we might be better off not being so quick to point the finger at stress.
However, it is also important not to turn a blind eye to the dangerous effects of sleep deprivation and overworking when toting high achievement as our school policy. Sleep deprivation can cause a slew of problems ranging from poor planning, mood swings, pain, and hallucinations. While our students continue to sweep the boards at academic and athletic conferences alike, it is important to remember that of course, health is paramount.
For all the blood, sweat, and tears that SIS students have poured into their academics, arts, and athletics, there is definitely a lot to celebrate. When ogling the mountain of work placed on our desks every day, the natural reflex to say “I’m so stressed” may not necessarily be all bad. So let us drink our coffee in peace. We’ve got big plans.