What to do in Sydney, Australia

Visiting Australia but don’t know what to do?

Koalas. Kangaroos. Platypus. These are some common things that people say when they think about Australia. However, in addition to these unique wildlife animals, Sydney is known for its various tourist attractions, ranging from the Sea Life Aquarium to a revolving tower restaurant. If you are ever visiting Sydney, here are some tourists spots recommended by someone who was born and lived there for over a decade:

  1. Climb the Harbor Bridge

Fill your stay in Sydney with some adventure by taking on the harbor bridge. With three courses available, you can choose which route to climb in order to meet your venture needs. Whether it’s the original three and half hour course where you climb to the top, you will find a path just for you. With a balance of flat walking and ladder climbing, this venture will make you afraid, happy, and thrilled. With the best tour guides climbing with you till the end, you will experience the unique Sydney experience with great views and sightseeing from the top.

2. Sydney Sea Life Aquarium

Unlike other aquarium, the Sydney Sea Life Aquarium brings you the most singular creatures of Australia. Whether it is the long crocodile or the classic sea creatures, this place will get your young curiosity rolling. If you are ever with kids, make sure to ride the penguin ride, which will take you through the penguins on a boat!

3. Wild Life Sydney Zoo


Experience the raw beauty of Australia through the wild life life zoo that has all the classic Australian animals kangaroos, platypus, and of course koalas. With a balance of indoor and outdoor experience, you will experience the wildlife of Australia. You will also be able to cuddle a Koala in the koala zone or take a photo of one of the largest crocodiles on land.

4. The Rocks Market

A classic go-to for my family anytime we go to a new country, visit the Rocks Market where they sell variety of home-made crafts, arts, and of course food. Whether it is buying a freshly made bubble bath soap from one of the nicest couple in town or purchasing, there are always some vintage or modern clothes and souvenirs you can get.

5. Sydney Tower Revolving Restaurant


Want to have a family dinner AND see the city of Sydney all in one go? The Sydney Tower Revolving Restaurant has got your back. Here, you can enjoy a nice buffet ranging from western to asian food as the platform moves 360 degrees. Make sure you don’t put your hat or bags on the side though- you’ll lose it!

6. Chinatown

Every major city has a Chinatown. However, the one is Sydney is richly dense with the most delicious food from every Chinese cuisine you can think of. Whether it is the home made bubble tea or seafood, you can grab a perfect dinner with your family. You can also enjoy the daily performances at the intersection.

Of course, there are so many other places in Sydney to go. It is no doubt that walking in the bustling city of Sydney will give you the ambience of the country. However, the tourist attractions I have listed here will give you a thrilling experience that you will remember for a long time.

—Sarah Se-Jung Oh (’19)

*All photos were taken by author, unless otherwise noted in the caption.

SKY Castle: What College, Success, and Love Really Mean

SKY Castle, a skyrocketing Korean Drama, is breaking through unprecedented ratings across the country. But what does this drama really tell us about our perceptions on success and love?

A daughter finds out that her mother is not her biological mother, a boyfriend finds out that his girlfriend cheated on him, a girl discovers that her rival’s mother’s step-sister’s nephew is her brother. These are some classic Korean drama plots, exaggerating daily events that may or may not happen in reality. However, SKY Castle, a skyrocketing drama in Korea that is reaching unprecedented popularity not only in Korea but also across Asia, breaks apart this classic representation of K Dramas. Captivating everyone from teens to 60-years-old, SKY Castle reveals one of the most sensitive topics in Korea, and frankly our lives.

Broadcasted from late November 2018, this 20 episode series trails the lives of four families whose children are mostly in high school. While all of them are elite families of doctors and lawyers, these four families each experience their own hardship and pain as they struggle to prepare their kids to enter college.

On the surface, SKY Castle may seem like the over-exaggerated reality of high schoolers journey in getting into elite colleges. However, when dissected further, this drama is not so much of a drama as it unveils on some of the bleak, hidden realities, touching upon the most uncomfortable and vulnerable part of our lives: college, success, and parental love.

SKY Castle is a reflection of our lives that makes us redefine life and love. (http://www.wikitree.co.kr/main/news_view.php?id=397833)

One of the key messages that this drama illustrates is the obsession we have with college —what it is, what it does, and what it disrupts. SKY Castle highlights this strong emphasis in addition to the greed and desire that parents, and sometimes students, too, have on getting into an elite college.

Main student characters in the drama who find their definition of success throughout struggles. (https://www.hellokpop.com/kdrama/k-drama-premiere-sky-castle/)

Many think that getting into a prestigious university equals prosperity and attending a name-value school brings some form of inexplicable joy into the home. But we can all agree that this socially valued norm can consume our thoughts, making us lose our own selves and definition of happiness. Just look at Ye-Suh’s father, a man who for so long focused on reaching the top position and recognition, slowly recognizing how striving straight for the top makes you lose simple things in life: love, joy, sorrow. Things that make us feel human.

In addition to focusing so much on college, SKY Castle also sheds light on our corrupt definition of success.

Sure, killing a rival shown in the drama may not seem realistic, but it does symbolize something: there is an unquenchable desire to win and be number one. Much like how we have been cultured to think that college defines one’s identity, we have constructed our culture to believe that winning someone is a sign of victory. As portrayed by Ki Joon and Seo Joon’s father, we believe that we must reach the top of the pyramid by stepping on others and getting up beyond them. We believe that we can only gain victory by how we compare to  the people around us. In fact, if we think about it, this notion of reigning in victory relative to those around us drives this drama’s plot; the motive of the students is to be ‘number one.’

The other bleak reality this drama uncovers is college entrance coordinators. Across the globe we have consulting groups who help students get into colleges, much like Kim Joo Young in the drama. However, we can often be too consumed by getting into a college that we might let those groups overtake our voice. It’s important to note here that I am by no means saying that consulting advisors or agencies are harmful or useless. I have seen and heard countless students be successful and happy with the coordinators help and I’m sure they do incredible work to support you  reaching your dreams. But we also need to remember to have our own say in our education and life.

Ye-suh’s mother shows desperation to the coordinator.

Ye-suh is virtually controlled by her coordinator, listening to her directions and suggestions rather than directing her own path. Like Ye-Suh’s life crumples throughout the episodes, we are vulnerable just like her to feel hopeless and helpless. Some agencies layout everything in linear order; you must do this and this to get this. But we don’t realize that not everything in life is a straight line. There’s curves, squiggles, slanted lines, perfect lines, and unfinished lines. We must remember to break away from that line drawn in front of you; make sure you control your direction because no one, not your mom not your consulting firm, will determine your future but you.

As exaggerated as it seems, the consulting agencies may in real life “control” you. http://www.hankookilbo.com/News/Read/201901081896712588

But perhaps the most important message of the drama, SKY Castle shares the warmth and commonality we all have: family love. All four families have different lives and personalities; they are all so distinctive that you can’t help it but ask one another, “ which one of the four moms is like yours?”

Despite the diversity of the four, all of them show family love as the common denominator. This universal feeling, the most powerful love that’s stronger than any other relationship, ties all the families together. Take Ye-suh’s mom for example. We feel anger and happiness toward this character for her cruel acts. But we are forced as viewers to empathize with her; after all, her daughter’s life is at risk. Just like any mom in the world, she is just trying to protect her daughter, urging the viewers to feel indecisive about her.

The tension and unconditional love a mother has for her kids. (http://www.christiantoday.co.kr/news/318871)
A mother having to give up on her daughter’s life to reveal the truth.

The unconditional love of the mother for her child is such a powerful feeling and emotion. It’s the mother’s love that takes in all the child’s sins and brings warmth to the cold soul. It’s the mother’s love that she gives life and breath to the child.

For me, I am fortunate and grateful to have a mother who understands and values my say in my path, who doesn’t make me feel bad about a low number, who doesn’t believe that success is defined by a certain acceptance. But I know that many of my peers and Korean students feel that their moms are pressuring them to achieve the highest; even as you are reading this, you might feel yourself emphasizing with Ye-suh more. But as this drama shows, regardless of which of the four families you seem to lie in, all mothers have the same desire for a child: to be successful in the real world and to find happiness. Sometimes, however, our definition of success may not line up, or maybe you’re like Soo-han and you don’t know what that looks like. That’s okay because that just means that you haven’t struggled enough to find that definition. But regardless, always remember the unconditional love that family has.

There is still so much to delve into in this drama, whether that’s the characterization, symbols, or shootings. But for me, as someone still struggling to find my own definition of success, SKY Castle lent me a perspective. It didn’t give me a solution to the doubts and uncertainties I hold, but it proved to me that I am not alone in this journey- that this is a universal experience we all feel. That joy, regret, shame, evil are all so human. Perhaps, the intro song We all lie aims to tell us the same.

I respect the writer for her audacity to write such a sensitive, veiled topic, to tell us how corrupt our definition of success is, and most importantly, to remind us the infinite power parental love holds.

– Sarah Se-Jung Oh (’19)

Featured Image: https://www.thestar.com.my/news/regional/2019/01/03/popular-south-korean-drama-sky-castle-blamed-for-inspiring-copycat-murder-of-doctor/

New Faces at KIS 2018

It’s already been over two months since school started, but do we know all the new faces at KIS? Check out who some of them are and their stories.

With already three months into the school year, KIS has various new teachers and students from across the globe. Whether it is Ms. Edwards in the counseling department or Mr and Mrs Beaucham in the English department, each of these teachers and students have their own stories to share.

To learn more about who they are and their stories, Blueprint asked some of the teachers and students.

Sarah Wilson


  1. Please introduce yourself. Where are you from? Is this your first time in Korea?
    Hi, my name’s Sarah Wilson and I’m from the Netherlands, but I moved here when I was 4 so I would consider Korea more of a “home” to me than the Netherlands. I’ve lived here for 12 years now and attended another international school until transferring here this year. 

2. Why did you decide to come to KIS?
I decided to move to KIS because I had been at my past school for a long, long time and there were just a few things that made me want to look for different options. KIS was the next closest international school to where I live, so I checked it out and it seemed like a good school with nice facilities, students, and teachers. In terms of decision making, it was a lot easier to decide to move to KIS knowing I already had a friend here. So, I applied, and now I’m here!

3. How has your first two months here been?
My first two months have been pretty good. People have been really nice and welcoming, and its been much easier to adjust than expected.

4. What do you find most challenging at KIS? What do you like about KIS?
Something I found really challenging, especially in the first couple weeks here was how big the school is in comparison to my past school. I struggled a lot with finding my way around and getting from building to building, but I got the hang of it and it’s much easier now.
I really like how much bigger the school is. Not necessarily physically, but rather, the amount of students in a grade. My last school only had 30-45 people per grade, which provided a great sense of community, but I much more prefer the size of classes here at KIS.

6. What are you looking forward to this school year?
I’m looking forward to getting to know people and just get properly adjusted to the school in general. I’m also looking forward to hopefully getting more involved in the school with things like theatre, sports, etc.


Mr. Vogt

IMG_0694 copy

  1. Please introduce yourself. Where are you from? Is this your first time in Korea?
    My name is Jeff Vogt and I am from the United States. I’ve lived and worked overseas in Tokyo, Japan and Dubai, United Arab Emirates. This is my first time living in Korea but I have visited a couple of times during 2012 and 2013.


2. Why did you decide to come to KIS?
My wife Lisa and I decided to come to Korea because we love the culture and people of not just Korea, but all of (East) Asia. Being in this region allows us to easily travel all over Asia and Southeast Asia. Additionally, my wife is a new teacher and KIS was extra supportive in helping her get into the classroom.

3. How has your first two months in Korea/KIS been?
The first two months have presented us with about every emotion possible. Happiness and excitement upon arrival to Korea, arrival to meet students and new colleagues as well as immersing ourselves in this new culture. Stress and anxiety (a little bit) because we cannot communicate that well in Korean…yet. Surprise at how awesome KIS, its’ students and faculty have been to us!

4. If you could enroll in another teacher’s class for a day, which class would you join? Why?
Probably AP Psychology (sooooooo, Ms. Hawkinson?). Where I used to work, AP Psych was well liked (and it seems that way here too) and seemed like such an interesting subject. Plus, I’m a terms guy and love learning all the new lingo! The other choice would be Eric Sampson. He just seems like he’d run such a fun, interesting physics class that I couldn’t resist!

5. What is one of your hidden talents?
Haha. Me? Hidden talent? I’d have to sadly say that I don’t have one. I’m a jack of all trades and a master of nothing.

6. What are you looking forward to this school year?
I am looking forward to continuing to build awesome relationships with my students and to help them learn and love science.


Ms. Williams


IMG_07031.Please introduce yourself. Where are you from? Is this your first time in Korea?
Because I teach Spanish, my students call me Señorita Williams. I grew up in Virginia and Puerto Rico. I most recently taught high school Spanish outside of Washington, DC for eleven years. I have also taught middle school Spanish in Virginia and bilingual kindergarten in Austin, Texas. This is my first time in Korea!


2. Why did you decide to come to KIS?
KIS is a strong school and great fit for me. I wanted to teach abroad so that I could learn a new language, teach in another culture, further develop as an educator, collaborate with other teachers from around the world and grow as a person. Every day, I encourage my students to challenge themselves, take a step out of their comfort zones, and integrate what they learn into their future careers. Teaching in Korea is allowing me to practice what I preach. I am excited about all the adventures it will bring!


3. How has your first two months in Korea/KIS  been?
I have thoroughly enjoyed my first two months in Korea. At KIS, everyone is supportive and welcoming, and I have enjoyed getting to know my new colleagues and students. I have had the chance to visit Seoul several times, attend a K League 1 soccer match, a Bears baseball game, travel to Taiwan and much more. Every day has some kind of adventure and I am loving it!

4. If you could enroll in another teacher’s class for a day, which class would you join? Why?
I would enroll in a technology course! Technology has changed significantly in the years since I was in school. My previous school was known for its robotics program and I was always intrigued by the program so I attended some of their competitions when possible. As at my previous high school, the enthusiasm of all of the instructors at KIS is contagious!

5. What is one of your hidden talents?
I can play the cello and walk at the same time!

6. What are you looking forward to this school year?
I am looking forward to a year filled with teaching and learning, travel, adventures, and laughter. Many days have challenges but every day is a blessing to me. I am thankful for this experience and the opportunity to work at KIS with its administrators, teachers, students, and parents!

Madison Rhee

IMG_06911. Please introduce yourself. Where are you from? Is this your first time in Korea?
My name is Madison Rhee. I have lived in the United States for four years, and before, I have lived in South Korea during elementary school years.  

2. Why did you decide to come to KIS?
We were looking for international schools located in South Korea, and it seemed to us that KIS had the best reputation out of all.

3. How has your first two months here been?The first week of school as a new student was, as expected, quite chaotic. Finding my way around campus and being surrounded by unfamiliar people was overwhelming at first. However, with the help of numerous affable people, I was able to adapt to KIS quickly, and so far everything has been going very well for me.

4. What do you find most challenging at KIS? What do you like about KIS?
I really like how KIS offers a variety of extracurricular activities that students can choose from. I think this allows students to prepare for their future in a way by providing an opportunity to pursue their interests and dreams outside of academics and helps them to become well rounded. I am sure I will be facing academic challenges throughout the year, but as of now one of challenges at KIS is getting used to the stairs.

5. What is one of your hidden talents?
One of my hidden talents is solving a Rubik’s cube!

6. What are you looking forward to this school year?
I am looking forward to making more new friends and participating in many activities this year!


Mr. Parker

IMG_07141. Please introduce yourself. Where are you from? Is this your first time in Korea?
My name is Peter Parker, a name which I share with a rather famous Marvel comic book hero. I was born in Ireland, but immigrated to Canada. I have been teaching internationally for 21 years and have worked in Colombia, China, Paraguay, Ecuador, Kazakhstan and now Korea. Yes, I have visited Korea before, the first time in 2001 and have attended SEOMUN the past three years.

2. Why did you decide to come to KIS?
I have always been interested in Korea as a country to work in and when the opportunity came up to work at KIS came up, it felt like a good match. Also, I have many friends who have worked at KIS and I had heard good things about the school and life in Korea.

3. How has your first two months in Korea/KIS  been?
It has been a bit of a whirlwind, but in a good way. I like Seoul as a city, but also the little bit of the countryside that I have seen. I have also felt very welcomed by my teaching colleagues, who have been supportive and encouraging as I transition to KIS.And, my students have been awesome.

4. If you could enroll in another teacher’s class for a day, which class would you join? Why?
Oooohhhh…this is a bit more of a toughie, largely because I am still getting to know the teachers. I have heard that Ms. Surette’s MS Science class is cool, in the HS…just about any of my colleagues in the Social Studies department.

5. What is one of your hidden talents?
Like my famous namesake, I prefer that my talents stay hidden…although my spider senses do tingle at times.

6. What are you looking forward to this school year?
Transitioning to a new school always comes with challenges, but so far I have been really impressed by the quality staff and students at KIS. I am most looking forward to getting settled and building relationships with the KIS community. Outside of the classroom I am excited about exploring different aspects of Korea…the culture, the food and the nature.
There are many more faculty and students who are new to our family—make sure to welcome and hear their stories!

—Sarah Se-Jung Oh (’19)

Photos: Sejoon Chang (’21)


The Pad Initiative

The talk on violence against women has surfaced today. But why is the topic of women’s access to pads so silent? Read how SJL has brought this global issue to KIS.

You enter the bathroom when you realize:

“Oh, crap. I forgot my pad.”

This is common among all girls at KIS and frankly every female. We all have forgotten to bring our pads at least once in our life. With panic surging and heart racing, many girls struggle when they are out of luck for a pad in emergencies. Sometimes we have a friend nearby to get one, but other times, we have to race down to the nurse’s office or even the convenient store. But how much easier and effective would it be to have a dispenser in the bathrooms so girls don’t have to fear about having no pads?

Before discussing this matter, however, we need to get comfortable with the discomfort: pads.

Yeah—it’s awkward. It’s uncomfortable. But at the very same time, it’s natural.

We often view pads as ‘taboo’ or even worse ‘women’s business.’ Yet, would we view them with such sensitivity and carefulness if men had periods? Why is the topic of sanitary pads or menstruation in broad terms so unspoken of? There’s a whole movement with the #metoo campaign that’s putting women’s rights on the front line yet the topic of women’s menstruation is still silent. However, this hushed issue is a paramount part of gender equality that deserves to be openly discussed.

Understanding the importance of sanitary pads for all women and girls, I launched with  Social Justice League (SJL), a potent group of students advocating for justice at KIS,  the “Pad Initiative,” a project aimed to advocate for accessible pads for girls at KIS and beyond. Our current goal is to have school-funded sanitary pads in our school bathrooms so that girls feel safe and free to obtain one when needed. We hope girls, rather than struggling to get one from the nurse’s office or the store, will be able to use the pads at their convenience.  

“KIS is a wonderful place to learn and grow. KIS cares about students and provides students great education with state-of-the-art facilities. But, I can’t believe KIS forgot half the student body – the female students. How did KIS ever think it was a good idea for girls to walk all the way to the nurse office during emergencies? I’m thrilled with this (obvious) initiative and hope it’s a positive experience for all the female students of KIS.”—Ms. Chang, SJL advisor

While in the process of proposing this mission to the school, we have conducted a test-run over the past few weeks. The swan holders with pads on H4 and H5 (which you probably came across) have been used to determine how necessary it is to have accessible pads. As expected, five pads were used in less than a week on just one floor; take this on a whole schoolwide level and the need for sanitary pads is evident.

5th floor -close-up

5th floor
Pad holders are placed on both H4 and H5 currently.


Although this seems to be a small initiative, it is a potent project that brings KIS to the forefront of defending women’s rights. In fact, other international schools in Korea except for Chadwick do not have this system in place. Even more promising is how this minute act fits in with a large movement occurring today as multiple organizations and schools are pressing for free sanitary materials. Nancy Kramer is the founder of “Free the Tampons,” a campaign that aims to provide free tampons in Ohio. She claims in an interview with the Huffington Post that “tampons and pads should be treated just like toilet paper. They serve the same purpose—items to tend to our everyday, normal bodily functions.” Likewise, Viet Nguyen, the head of Brown University Undergraduate Council of Students, initiated the school to provide free pads in not only girls’ bathrooms but also men’s bathrooms, maintaining that “menstruation is experienced by more than just those who identify as women and that not all people who identify as women menstruate.”


Right to access free pads is a global issue.(https://twitter.com/i/web/status/843482255217561601)



 As multiple other organizations and schools are initiating the provision of free and accessible pads, we hope that our vision becomes a key role in propelling women’s rights on a broader level. The “Pad Initiative” may be a micro act to this large movement; yet, implementing a system for pads and opening the discussion on women’s issues make KIS the trailblazers for protecting and advocating women’s rights.

Sure, #time’s up for veiling violence on women—but also for women’s health.

UPDATED 09/05/2018:

*SJl’s pad initiative has been approved by the admin and is now fully implemented on H1,2,3,4,5,6 and G 3,5,7 and B 1,3. Please feel free to take one when in need!

—Sarah Se-Jung Oh (’19)




Between the World and Me: Through the Eyes of an Asian Teen

In his ground-breaking novel, Coates tackles the struggle of African Americans through letters to his son. But what does this all mean for an Asian teenager?

“ You are the bearer of a body more fragile than any other in this country.”


These were the words of Ta-Nehisi Coates to his son in his novel Between the World and Me. In his epistolary memoir, Coates, an American author and journalist, attempts to explain to his son about his own fear and insecurities on this “terrible and beautiful world.” As a man who faced discrimination at a young age, Coates traces his own experience and intertwines it with examples today to touch on one of the most sensitive and grave issues of America today: the lives of African Americans.

I am a Korean Australian teenage girl who has fortunately experienced little racism. The most serious encounter being only when three Australian boys yelled at me “die Chinese girl! Die” as I was entering my mom’s car. Worse, I have seldom witnessed racism in the lives of Blacks. For me, my connection with them was through texts: the countless U.S. history textbooks that fill the chapters with the Civil War, the lengthy essays and speeches in AP Lang prompts that inundate students with topics on slavery and equality, the limitless passages in the SAT that continuously highlight the Black struggle. My relationship with racism was felt inauthentically. They never felt tangible.

When you enter Mr. Brondel’s class and see the screen with the word “slavery”; when you flip over to the essay prompt as Mr. v starts the timer; when you open the SAT package and the proctor says “start the reading section”; you groan and sigh to find that the topic is on African Americans again. Even I as someone who tries to appreciate texts, it is at times frustrating to read about a topic that I have so little relation to.

However, Coates’ use of rich language drew me in to take a peek at their lives. The use of ‘body’ as a fragile belonging of African Americans elucidates what it means to live in fear. For us, the body is just an identity that we own. But for Coates, it is a precarious, delicate part of their lives that could be broken, stolen, or even abused: a part of his son’s life that is prone to be vulnerable. Coates, by doing so, makes such struggle real; the multitude of textbooks, prompts, passages in my shelf slowly took form into life. For once, the words and feelings started to make sense.


Some of my fellow peers, on the other hand, may argue the contrary. I asked my friend the other day whether or not she could empathize with the struggle of African Americans. She told me that she did because she was once an Asian in a country of White. Sure, perhaps she felt excluded from the majority. Sure, she may feel as if she was marginalized. But as I was reading Between the World and Me, I realized how her thought, which many other teenagers around me may agree, is false. The African American’s fight for equality is so unique and ingrained in such complex heritage that it cannot be generalized to mere ‘racism’ or ‘discrimination.’ No matter how much I face marginalization or discrimination, I can never fully understand, empathize, or feel their pain and fear. Their experience and story are distinctive; it isn’t something we can completely understand.

But by no means am I saying that we should all now relinquish our fight for equality just because we cannot wholly feel their experience. I am not in any way pitying their lives or degrading ourselves. I am just arguing the need to realize that the struggle of African Americans can never be completely felt by those who say that they were merely excluded in a society. I do not know what the solution is to gaining equality for all race and peoples. But what I do know is that Coates has shown me that the struggles are more profound, more complex, more humane than just a chapter in a textbook or a passage on an exam. And for that, I want to thank Coates for showing me a glimpse of their lives and for making my connection to them more real.

– Sarah Se-Jung Oh (’19)

Featured Image: http://www.boredtodeathbookclub.com/2015/12/10/between-the-world-and-me-ta-nehisi-coates/




KIS HS English Teachers’ Favorite Books

Ever wondered what your English teacher’s favorite book is? Find out their favorite books only on Blueprint! Featuring Ms. Clarke, Mr. Collings, Mr. Miller, Ms. Pate, and Mr. van Moppes.

Reading is one of the most rewarding experiences that everyone can have regardless of one’s gender, race, ethnicity or social status. It enables us to empathize with others, learn about humanity, and improve ourselves into compassionate people. For me, reading novels has not only been a pastime but my counselor and friend; books have taught me to live wholeheartedly and authentically, to strive towards my goal.

Just as how each and every one of us has at least one favorite book that influenced our lives, KIS HS English teachers also have their many favorites. In an attempt to discover insights into their favorite books, Blueprint has interviewed several English teachers.

Ms. Clarke

jane eyre

  1. What is your favorite book?

I will choose my favorite classic- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

  1. Why is it your favorite book?

I’ll admit I first read this book in grade 9 because I shared a first name with it. I loved this book because of the heroine, Jane. It was a book I read at just the right moment: 9th grade, when I must have been looking for some unique and memorable female role-models in the stories I was reading. Jane Eyre is one of those: deeply introspective, guided by strong beliefs, and absolutely her own person. This was the first British Gothic/Romantic book I’d ever read; the supernatural, dramatic elements of the story compelled me. There’s nothing quite like a story with unexpected, shocking twists, and Victorian literature is full of them!

  1. How has it impacted your life?

After I read Jane Eyre, I choose The Eyre Affair (a modern British Alternative History/Sci-Fi/Mystery novel) for a 10th grade English project. It is this weird, funny, fast-paced story that let me realize/ enjoy being a bookworm. As you read it, you get to enjoy all these allusions, inside jokes, and alternate narratives that stem from Jane Eyre and other classics. The sequence of those two books helped me realize how much genuine enthusiasm and fun I found in the act of reading, and in the use of imagination and attention to detail that exists in so much good fiction/writing.

  1. What line(s) strikes you as insightful?

“I am no bird, and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will…”

“I would always rather be happy than dignified.”

“I have an inward treasure born with me, which can keep me alive if all extraneous delights should be withheld, or offered only at a price I cannot afford to give.”

Mr. Collings


  1. What is your favorite book?

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey.

  1. Why is it your favorite book?

I love the way it presented the need for civil disobedience and the way people can use it to bring down the combine. It speaks to me on a higher level and shows the importance to practice civil disobedience in my daily life, but also to understand the consequences for participating in it as well. The cause needs to be bigger than the individual. Plus it is hysterical. It makes me laugh every time, even though I have read it on numerous occasions.

  1. How has it impacted your life?

Ken Kesey’s story impacted me by the way it showed me to challenge my thinking, and to fight against the combine. I believe my work as a teacher is the same kind of work that McMurphy was doing in the story. I see education as greater than myself, and because of that I am willing to fight for the way it can be most impactful for my students.

  1. What line(s) strikes you as insightful?

“‘But I tried, though,’ he says. ‘Goddammit, I sure as hell did that much, now, didn’t I?'” (Kesey 111)

“It’s too late to stop it now. McMurphy did something to it that first day, put some kind of hex on it with his hand so it won’t like I order it. There’s no sense to it, any fool can see; I wouldn’t do it on my own. Just by the way the nurse is staring at me with her mouth empty of words I can see I’m in trouble, but I can’t stop it. McMurphy’s got hidden wires hooked to it, lifting it slow just to get me out of the fog and into the open where I’m fair game. He’s doing it, wires… No. That’s not the truth. I lifted it myself.” (Kesey 126)

“And we’re sitting there lined up in front of the blanked-out TV, watching the grey screen just like we could see the baseball game clear as day, and she’s ranting and screaming behind us. If somebody’d of come in and took a look, men watching a blank TV, a fifty-year old woman hollering and squealing at the back of their heads about discipline and order and recriminations, they’d of thought the whole bunch of us were crazy as loons.” (Kesey 128)

Mr. Miller


  1. What is your favorite book? (title and author)

River Town by Peter Hassler

  1. Why is it your favorite book?

Hessler’s work is admirable and speaks to many of the sensations I have personally felt while living abroad.  As Hessler starts to learn Mandarin, he attains a Chinese identity when he is given a Chinese name—“Ho-Wei.”  The disparity he feels between his Chinese self and his American self-reads like a version of “Borges and I” with the dual identity theme of “author-self” and   “self” taking shape for the visitor to a foreign land. Hessler’s personal descriptions of the alienation and fascination of living in a foreign land ring true to the style I would like to create in my travel writing.

  1. How has it impacted your life?

When I lived in Taiwan, the students laughed at my Chinese name, “Yue Han” (约翰) which consists of two characters–the first means “promise” and the second means “writing.” It is a good name for a writer. The idea of a “foreign self” and a “local self” is an idea that I take from Hessler and regularly use in travel narratives.

Ms. Pate


  1. What is your favorite book? (title and author)

I have so many favorites! I usually claim The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, Beloved by Toni Morrison, or A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood as my favorite, though.

  1. Why is it your favorite book?

Each of these books has compelling character arcs and some sort of tragic abyss. I am a character-driven reader; I need to get into the main character’s head and root for him/her. All of these books also draw me in with the beauty and poetic richness of their language. While they all involve deeply troubled or injured characters, they also contain some of my favorite sentences in the English language.

  1. How has it impacted your life?

The Sparrow captured my imagination and love of adventure; the other two books have shaped my transition from Social Studies to English. They are all books that I have read multiple times 🙂

  1. What line(s) strikes you as insightful?

So many! I could have chosen a huge list, but I thought I’d just add a couple from Handmaid’s Tale and Beloved. The Sparrow has wonderful language, but it’s not about the language the way that the other two are.

Handmaid’s Tale: “Night falls. Or has fallen. Why is it that night falls, instead of rising, like the dawn? Yet if you look east, at sunset, you can see night rising, not falling; darkness lifting into the sky, up from the horizon, like a black sun behind cloud cover. Like smoke from an unseen fire, a line of fire just below the horizon, brushfire or a burning city. Maybe night falls because it’s heavy, a thick curtain pulled up over the eyes. Wool blanket.”

Beloved: “She is a friend of my mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order.”

Mr. van Moppes


  1. What is your favorite book?

Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk  

  1. Why is it your favorite book?

It just felt so prescient when I read it. Like it was a lens into the future. It examines conspicuous consumption, globalization, marginalization, minimalism, greed, isolation, etc.   

  1. How has it impacted your life?

It reminds me of the true value of things, what is truly important, what matters as a human being. Love, tangible relationships, freedom of thought.

  1. What line(s) strikes you as insightful?

The things you used to own, now they own you.”

“The lower you fall, the higher you’ll fly.”

So often, we forget to ask the teachers about their favorites. However, as shown in the interviews, KIS English teachers have a vast array of their favorite books, whether that is classic or modern. Perhaps, students can attempt to read the department’s books and discover how they impact their own lives.

– Sarah Se-Jung Oh (’19)

Featured Image: Crescentia Jung (’19)










Top Modern and Classic French Songs

Why not take a break from all the studying and immerse yourself into some French songs?

 With final exams and assignments are coming up in just under a month, high-school students are under a great amount of pressure. However, it is crucial for them to take a break at times and immerse themselves in other activities other than academics. As a student who learns French, I have listed a few classical and modern French songs that will pacify your anxiety. For those who study French, this is a great way to improve on the language. And for those who do not, these songs will uplift your day and give you an insight into a new culture. Regardless, the songs will make you feel as if you are in Paris!


1. Je Suis Malade – Lara Fabian 

Released in 1994, this song is simply beautiful: Fabian’s passion, thoughts, and feelings show in her powerful voice. After hearing a couple of times, the tune will get stuck in your head—in the next minute you will be walking off singing the words ‘je suis malade!’

2. S.O.S d’un terrien en detresse – Daniel Balavoine and Dimash Kudaibergen 

Balavoine is a prominent french singer during the 20th century for inspiring other singers such as Jean-Jacques. One of his famous songs, “S.O.S” became a massive hit globally when it was released. The music is exemplified even more by a modern singer, Dimash Kudaibergen. Try listening to the both and compare the two!

3. Ne Me Quitte Pas – Jacques Brel 

Translated into “Don’t leave me” and released in 1959, this song will pacify your hectic mind with his soothing voice. A perfect song to listen after a long day of studying or working.

4. Non, Je ne regrette rien – Edith Piaf and Madagascar 3 

Other than being sung by a female singer, this short yet potent song may sound familiar when you hear it. Perhaps at a local cafe? At a Jazz concert? Piaf’s vibrant voice with the dulcet instrumental will immerse you into Paris, drinking a cup of coffee. It has also been included in Madagascar 3 as an adaptation; a bit strange but worth a watch!

5. Papaoutai – Stromae 

Having over 400 million views on Youtube, this modern song by Stromae became the top best selling single in Belgium and quickly spread to the world. It is well-known for not only its catchy lyrics ‘Papaoutai’ but also its incredible music video that features a young boy talking to a mannequin father. Stromae later claimed that the absence of the father represented his own as Stromae’s father died in the Rwandan genocide.

6. Derniere Danse – Indila 

Indila is alongside with Stromae in modern day french songs. Besides the eloquence, the song touches on a serious issue in today’s society: racism. For me, Indila’s clear voice aided me in better grasping the French accent and pronunciation in addition to its beauty.

7. On Ecrit Sur Les Murs – Kids United 

Unlike the others listed, this song is sung by Kids who are part of the ‘Kids United.’ If you do not look at the music video, it is nearly impossible to determine whether or not young kids sang it.

8. C’est Chelou – Zaho

Although the music video may seem peculiar, the catchy repetition will remain in you for a long time. The next thing you know, you will be walking out of your exam singing ‘C’est Chelou’!

A lot of the modern day songs tend to spin-offs from classical songs like the Madagascar. Furthermore, the modern ones tend to focus on more of social and personal issues like Stromae and Indila.

The songs are great for students and adults alike to take their minds off of the workload and submerge into the French culture.

—Sarah Se-Jung Oh (’19)

Featured Image: Celine Yoon (’19)

A Quiet Feminist?

Is there even such thing called “quiet feminist? What constitutes a feminist today?

Wearing a long pebble gray dress with a white blazer, I stood in front of the UN flag and proudly represented the woman that I admired ever since I read her books in the local library: Eleanor Roosevelt. A woman of great courage and power, Roosevelt’s influence in the fight for women’s rights profoundly impacted me as I was engrossed by the notion of feminism. Even till this day, her famous quote on how “a woman is like a tea bag – you never know how strong she is until you put her in hot water” reverberates in me. After representing her in my old school’s convention, I unknowingly seemed to be known as the fan girl of feminism at such a young age of 12.

Yet, I never had a conversation with someone on the topic; feminism always came to me in a form of research, facts, and numbers, never as a social issue. It was something that I knew I was interested in on a surface level, but it never came to me in a form of passion, as a deep-level thought.

As time passed, my interest in women’s rights drifted away from my mind as I came into concern with my introverted personality in an extroverted society. I began to research on what introversion was and what made it such an issue today. Through reading and watching videos, I discovered how I should praise my quiet personality as it yields valuable gifts and talents.

This school year, however, I joined Social Justice League, a club at school that advocates for social justice, in an effort to rekindle my temporary interest in women’s rights and perhaps deepen it. I wanted to take the opportunity to find myself back in the shoes of Roosevelt, explaining to people the great role I took in women’s rights. I hoped to make sense of the topic, to make it more tangible.

During the discussions we had in club regarding various issues on gender inequality such as how religion and cultural norms play in the issue, I was able to dissect feminism into pieces and have a better grasp on the complexities and layers of feminism. While discussing on what 21st century ideas on what feminism is, I encountered a dilemma.

Most students who call themselves ‘feminists’ are loud, confident, and aggressive, leaning towards to the extroverted side of the spectrum. They tend to show their bolder side by voicing their opinions on feminism. Even in social media, people believe that some of the most popular modern feminists are those who publicly assert their stances like Hillary Clinton and Emma Watson. Despite how incredible they are, we sometimes ignore those who express their passion in terms of words such as Warsan Shire, a Somali poet, and activist. I found myself gearing more towards the latter since I am not the most aggressive and expressive person in school. Yet, I always felt that I had to give up either one of my passions—introversion or feminism—as they often seemed to be conflicting in my opinion. So the question came to me: am I truly a feminist?



My answer came to me when I was researching on historical feminists that resonated with me.  Ida Tarbell, a female journalist who played a key role in eradicating the Standard Oil Company’s monopoly, was one that I embarked on to research. I discovered how Tarbell seems to be depicted as someone who has no ties with women’s rights. To some extent, it is true- many claim that she was against the women’s suffrage movement during the 1900s and believed that women should be subservient to men. Nevertheless, I found through research that although she never verbally claimed that she was a feminist, her work of revealing the corruptness of the Oil Company was an act of advocating for women, as most journalists during the period never attempted to risk an investigative topic this risky. I also learned that Eleanor Roosevelt, the woman that I so dearly loved, was an introvert herself yet still fought for women’s rights by writing daily on a column in women’s issues such as gender wage gaps and women in war.



Like the two, women don’t always have to possess masculine traits in order to be called feminists. We don’t have to boldly assert our opinions just because that shows our passion for feminism. Instead, we can find our own way of expressing what feminism is.




By researching on Tarbell and Roosevelt and discussing in Social Justice League, I found myself back into the grey dress I wore four years ago, taking my stand and representing Roosevelt. And I asked myself again: Am I a feminist?

Yes. I am a feminist—a quiet yet passionate one.

—Sarah Se-Jung Oh (’19)

Dutch Empty Cells: A Utopian Society?

Is Netherlands truly a utopian country with empty prison cells?

After years of struggle to have the so-called ‘perfect’ society, we may truly have discovered a utopian country: Netherlands.

Prison rates in the United States, United Kingdom, and various countries across Europe are faced with the influx of prisoners in jails. However, the Dutch has the opposite problem of having a lack of prisoners to fill up their jails.

Netherlands Cells for Asylum Seekers
Refugees wait in line to receive lunch. (dailymail.co.uk)

According to the Ministry of Justice, a third of Dutch prisons are currently empty while it predicts that there will be over 3,000 empty cells by 2021. This decline of jails is correlated with the rapid decline in the total number of inmates as it fell by 27% between 2011 and 2015. To put into perspective, while the US has about 666 prisoners per 100,00 citizens, Netherlands has 61, which is similar to the number in Scandinavia.

There are multiple causes for this phenomenon, including law enforcement and demographic changes.

One of the most common reasons for the decline is the novel approach that the Dutch takes in taking inmates; rather than incarcerating them for long periods of time, the government emphasizes rehabilitation, often giving certain freedom to inmates such as the right to visit the local library and canteen without supervision. By doing so, the government hopes to better support inmates when they assimilate back to their normal lives.

Netherlands Cells for Asylum Seekers
Afghan refugee plays piano in a prison cell (dailymail.co.uk)

The rise of the digital age is also attributed to this shift as technology has largely helped police officers better look over criminals. For example, in 2005, Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport was able to catch a larger number of drug mules who were carrying cocaine, greatly reducing the number. Netherlands have also recently employed the use of electronic tagging of offenders after they are released in order to minimize the possibility of them repeating crime acts.

Another reason for the declining criminal rates is the demographics of Dutch. Like Japan, Netherlands has a high population of the elderly who is less likely to commit a crime. In addition, according to Professor Swaaningen, the increasing dependence on technology such as computers have caused teenagers, who cause the most crime, to remain more indoors, precluding possibilities of their committing crimes on the streets.

Ages 40- 69 have the highest population density in 2014 (indexmundi.com)

The declining criminal and prison rates have made the government create solutions to use the empty cells.

Belgium and Norway have started to rent the unused cells in Netherlands by paying a certain amount of rent fees. According to a New York Times article, two years ago, Norway paid $27 million per year for a three-year contract in order to rent a prison. It also states that there is a “small waiting list” in Norway after it was advertised on a broadcasting system.

Similarly, over a dozen of prisons have been changed to used for asylum seekers this year, changing the settings of the cells into more modern day apartment style for families. De Koepel, a former prison in Haarlem, was renovated into a large soccer field for refugees while other areas have been changed to gymnasiums, kitchen facilities, and even outdoor gardens.

Netherlands Cells for Asylum Seekers
Migrants play football in the former prison of De Koepel in Haarlem (dailymail.co.uk)

The use of empty prison cells for renting and asylum seekers have caused a decline of prison cells as well. In response, many workers have expressed concerns about this issue.

In a Telegraph article, a closer of 5 prisons this year is equivalent to 1,900 people being “ redundant.”

Although the empty cells may pacify the tension with the refugee crisis, many are expressing concerns about the detrimental effects of the phenomenon.

Frans Carbo, a representative of the FNV union, claims that many prison workers are “angry and depressed” because “there is no future in prisons anymore- you never know when your prison will be closed.” He further posits that young people would not join the prison service as time passes.

Netherlands Cells for Asylum Seekers
Afghan refugee are able to live normal lives like Hayatullah in prison cells (dailymail.co.uk)

Likewise, the concerns of Dutch prisons are escalated even further when it comes to the role of government. For instance, Dutch MP Nine Kooiman argues that it is the government’s lack of security that led them to deal with this situation. She maintains that “ if the government really worked at catching criminals,” there would be no empty cells.

Furthermore, Jaap Oosterveer, a spokesman for the Ministry of Security and Justice sums up the situation as a time of “good and bad news.”

Whether or not the empty cells in Dutch is a portrayal of a utopian society is yet to be debated as many officials are perturbed and unsettled by the issue. Nevertheless, whether or not there will be a detrimental effect on prison jobs should be closely examined as further prisons transition into homes for those in need.

—Sarah Se-Jung Oh (’19)








The Courage to be Vulnerable

What does it mean to be vulnerable in Korean society?

“You are terrible at this. Why are you even here?”

“You are not good enough to do this.”

These are some of the most common comments from our peers that make us feel uncomfortable and self-doubt. As students, we face criticism and shame from people on a daily basis. Consequently, many students attempt to either hide their true selves or ignore the criticism.

Brené Brown, who is a researcher and author, proposes the revolutionary claim that we need to accept our vulnerabilities and imperfections in order to connect with others and live wholeheartedly. In her widely acclaimed novel Daring Greatly and Ted Talk, Brown explains the gifts that come with embracing vulnerability and building shame resilience, such as the three components to a wholehearted life: courage, compassion, and connection.


As the academic competition and expectation in South Korea are consistently high, students are always under pressure to perform well at school. One notable way of measuring the competitiveness is shown in the annually increasing high school student suicide rates. In fact, the Voice of the Youth Organisation reported that suicide is the leading cause of death in Koreans aged 15-24 years old.

As a student who attends an international school in South Korea, I find that the problem with cultivating shame resilience and accepting our imperfections is from the high expectations in academic excellence. For instance, if a Korean student gets less than 95% on an exam, this means that they are inferior to the friend who received a 96%, which leads one to conclude that the latter student will go to a better college than will the former student. Therefore, the former student’s self-esteem will diminish in response to the misconception.




In an image analysis conducted by Yang Liu, easterners tend to be less confident with themselves compared to westerners as depicted in the image below. One reason for this gap between the two ethnicities lies on the idea of how we view our imperfections and faults; westerners tend to accept their mistakes while easterners usually take them more seriously.


This accounts to why I have seen my Korean peers often act artificially in front of teachers in order to maintain their status, just to hide that they are imperfect. These acts no doubt portray how determined and eager students are to work hard to achieve their goal of attending a prestigious university. However, these acts are making the community disconnected, preventing opportunities to build meaningful connections and impacts. If we want to connect and learn from one another, we need to reveal ourselves authentically and vulnerably and believe that we are enough. 


This is not to say that we should all not aim to be as perfect as we can be; rather, it is to advocate that sometimes we need to be vulnerable. If students start to embrace their imperfections, they will begin to understand who they are and what they need to work on. By doing so, we can not only grow as a courageous, compassionate, and connected students but also as changers in our world. So students, start showing yourselves—be vulnerable and proud.

—Sarah Se-Jung Oh (’19)

*Featured Image: Hannah Kim (’19)




Daring Greatly & The Gifts of Imperfections by Brené Brown