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The road(s) not taken


By Jaeha Kim and Ariel Lee

“So wait, are you pre-med, engineering, business, law, or arts? You have to be one of those five, right?”

With this question we know it has begun: yes, college apps are now in season.

Even before the extended investigations that characterize this time of the year, it’s clear that we have pretty similar stats – test scores, one sport, one instrument,  one volunteer club, etc. But we gloss over the fact that even our intended areas of study/academic interests are heavily centered on a few, select fields.

Is this because our  Korean mindset tells us to go for the stereotypically “high-earning” jobs, a.k.a. doctors, lawyers, engineers, or businessmen? Well, partially. It is only natural for us to aim for jobs that pay well, in this capitalistic society – this isn’t just a Korean problem. But the issue goes beyond that, frankly.

With regards to SIS specifically, we’ve been trained to be test-takers and problem solvers. Students are used to goals that they can reach with very specific milestones: you can become a doctor by taking the doctor test, a lawyer by passing the bar, a businessman by getting an MBA, etc. When it comes to paving a unique path, the reality is simply filled with too many variables and not enough constants to disregard the odds and take that leap of faith.

And then again, many say that the reason for a lack of declared job diversity is a lack of job awareness. Not many in SIS have heard of becoming  an urban health planner, fragrance chemist, or even a lobotomist. But despite the fact that the school attempts to raise awareness through career week, declared job diversity does not seem to have improved amongst the student body.

This is because the negative perceptions of unconventional jobs confine us into the five job categories that we feel we have to choose from. When we are conditioned to hear words like “curator,” “lawyer,” and “businessman” and automatically gawk at their achievements, we are bound to be disappointed when jobs like “city planner” or “wedding planner” are discussed.

Ever since we stepped into the education system we’ve heard countless clichés about life: Live life to its fullest! Be passionate! Your income is not what matters! As we get older and hear more and more of these we just pass them off as clichés and nothing more. But when it comes to sayings, there is always a grain of truth in each: What matters is your passion for the job, your eagerness to advance in the field, and your will to make a change in the lives of others, big or small.

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