How hard is it to get into Catholic university?
Well, to understate it, it’s hard to do well! Almost everyone tries their absolute best and everyone is pretty good at it! To get to the top of the class, I’d study like this after school(for about two hours)
…and then I’d have a quick dinner, then head off to the library to study at least six hours.
Yup. That was me on a really good day.
The next day was again school, lunch, school, study, dinner, study…and so on. There’s no time for good family quality time, or for reading books, for going to the park with my dog. It’s just study study and study.
I know that in the U.S you have to join clubs, volunteer, and socialize to get a good transcript and get into an ivy league school or something. You know what? In Korea, it’s the same! During times when I was not studying, I was volunteering for translating children’s books, being the president of a science club, and trying hard to get into the good books of the really influential teachers who seemed likely to help you get into a really good university. It looks shallow, and you guys are totally right!
This is a picture of my science club, and my head is right down left center in the picture, making instant smoothies from dry ice (The thing we do to get into college, people…the things we do..).
In short, to get into a recognized university, you have to get top grades in math, science, english, korean, history, plus have great references from teachers, get along with your friends, volunteer(I did 70hours each year), and the most ironic part is you had to have individuality and stand out from the crowd. Yeah. Sure. That looks super on paper but is crazy in reality. When every highschool student studies for the most of the day, and does similar curricular activities, and have very little time for family, books, or friends, how on earth were we supposed to have originality that universities were so damned determined on getting?
Well, before I went to high school, I thought (short-minded as I was back then) that I was creative and original, and I prided in my skills in English writing(which I was, and maybe is, better than most my peers), my love for the outdoors and science, math, reading, french, art… and all the other things I loved, being the happy, bubbly kid I was. I thought the university would see what kind of person I was through my writing on which I would pour my heart out. Guess what? In Korea, to actually get there, just to make university officials look at you, it’s not who you are, or your potential, or your passion for books and studying that matters. What matters is who comes first in the deadly race to get to the top of your school. Students are aware of this by the time they set foot in highschool, and thereon, they just shut their eyes, try every day to shut out their emotions, and just plow through each grueling day. At least, that’s what I did.
Now, my story’s just getting too depressing. To tell you some upsides, there were some happy moments too. I loved my beautiful catholic school, and my wonderful friends there. After the end of term tests, my friends and I would go on shopping sprees and have fun.
However, it’s just that these times were so rare and then became virtually nonexistent the closer I got to my senior year which makes the system a sad factor.
I remember being so tired all the time from the lack of sleep and each day’s effort. I knew it would pass within 3~5 years, but every day just seemed too hard and endless. I had horrible back and neck aches from all the stooping I did at my desk, felt low all the time from the lack of moving, and became depressed because I felt I was going nowhere with all the pointless memorizing I did. I wanted to talk and wanted to debate my thoughts, I wanted to read literature and share my thoughts about what I read, and not just memorize literature the way we were supposed to for the Korean SAT’s. Although I loved english so much and loved writing, I simply hated how we learned English at school, by just memorizing vocabulary meaninglessly strung together, and memorizing random paragraphs from the textbooks( you actually had to be able to recite about 30~40 English paragraphs line to line, from memory, to get a good grade on the tests. Now how was that supposed to be English?)
This was what I looked like when I had to memorize these random paragraphs before my test.
I hated it.
After a couple of years had passed, even though school was going fine and I had good grades, I became severely depressed and hated my life. Suppressing your emotions is hard and I had used it as an effective strategy to keep on studying. I went through a really depressing stage and although I’m not going to go deep into this part, (at least, not today) the efforts I put into my studies, and only, my studies is one of the biggest reasons Korean high-school students have one of the highest suicide rates in the world. I thought every day ‘wouldn’t anywhere else be better than this?’. Eventually, I talked with my parents about sending me to a boarding school in the U.S. The reason I didn’t go was that my parents said that they were a hundred percent willing to let me go, but my Dad said ‘You can go, and we will definitely encourage you if you decide so, but, in the future, if there are difficult situations like this, will you always be running away?’.
I was kind of numbed by this, and in the end, I decided to get into a good Korean university with my grades, try hard just a few more years, preferably one, before going to the U.S as an exchange student.
My decision was sadly based on some mutual feeling in the Korean society that if you run away from this, or quit, you are simply too weak to fit into anywhere. I wanted at least to see a therapist, but in Korea, that is also considered a pretty weak move for students to get emotional counseling, although in my opinion, therapy sessions desperately needed for many Korean students.
What can I say. My first sentence to this long writing is seriously underrated. The Korean education system has a long way to go. The government just keeps trying to add ‘debating classes’ and ‘high-participation classes’ to make the system better. However, they do not change the grading systems or the SAT’s, or the strictly categorized universities, or the diversity of workplaces. So students end up having to do well on their SAT’s and having to do well on their regular grades at school, plus do well in the the newly added ‘debate classes’.
We’ll just have to go along this long long road and hope the government makes up its mind soon or else hope that one day all this craziness miraculously makes some sense.
Thank you for the time you took to read.
Questions are welcome:) I promise to keep it short next time.
Edit: Thank you User-12263168875346579349 for translating this into Italian! It was one of the nicest things ever and you made my day. Hope you have a great day as well.