Regardless of whether you’re a fledgling freshman flying through the exciting doors of high school for the first time or you’re a stressed-out senior already irritated by the Common App essay deadline that awaits you, whether you’re new and lost or completely sick of this school, the beginning of the school year is usually intimidating. You’re given a blank canvas: a blank Powerschool, blank knowledge on most of your courses, a blank piece of paper that every teacher hands out, asking you to make a name tag because they’re not good with names—but something more that too. You’re given a clean slate on which you can not only draw out a new roadmap for your school year and plan accordingly to your new teachers and courses, but also diverge from your initial scheme and go totally different directions, experiment, and adjust to change in the new school year.
Every year Buzzfeed and Youtube and advice columns provide you with “Back-to-School” advice on how to survive high school relationships, how to boost your self-confidence, what to wear on the first day, what workout routines you should put yourself into to amaze everyone on the first day (of course), but these tips are often nebulous, abstract, and hard to relate to. But have no fear! Here are 10 cliche but not-so-cliche tips from a senior directed towards just KIS students that will start you with a cringe but end you with nods of agreement and readiness.
Lunch: that word just stimulates my good spirits. If you grab a student in high school randomly in the H3 hallway and ask “When’s your favorite time of the school day?” he or she will most likely say “Lunch” or perhaps “Autonomous”. This is natural, because lunch is like an oasis, setting you free from the exhaustions of A,B or E,F blocks, and recharging you to full battery before the heat of later blocks overcome you until the end of the day. Most people spend their lunch time devouring a nutritious meal, but that’s not your only option. You can grab a rice cup from the deli and chill with your friends at the back of the library. If you want to be the diligent student you are even during lunch, you can seek available teachers for help or study quietly in the new second floor area. Whatever you do is up to you, but make sure you recharge because lunch time is golden time.
A traffic jam that can be compared to that of Los Angeles is the KIS High School traffic jam. Due to the inundation of people in the hallway as soon as the bell rings, passing time is a nightmare for most. However, if you choose your route wisely, not only will you save time, but also prevent yourself from being stepped on by a herd of students. The most handy methods of getting to class are using the back stairs, entering the G3 back door, and walking outside. Back stairs of the high school and G building are incomparably less dense than the main stairs; however, one thing to note is that those stairs are famous for attracting couples who seek privacy—if you want to see less people but more PDA, the back stairs are just for you. Entering the G building through the G3 back door is often useful because instead of having to storm up the steep G building stairs, you can easily stroll up the hill. Walking outside is a similar idea: along with avoiding a human stampede, you can save your energy by walking on a flat surface instead of a set of inclined stairs, and also maybe feel the tickling breeze or the tingling sunlight.
South Korea—it is ranked one of the highest in the world in terms of the best education system. With an established education system comes competition. Although KIS is not a Korean public school, competition among students is found ubiquitously in all aspects—grades, athletics, awards, etc. As much as competition is essential for personal motivation and ultimately academic success, comparing yourself with others is never healthy. You are you, and she is her. She is her, and he is him. You may think she’s more attractive, he’s better at AP Physics than you, she plays three Varsity sports while you play none, she received two awards at the end of the year, and the list goes on, but you have characteristics that make you special. Those characteristics are definitely different, but those characteristics are definitely there. After all, every star is unique, but they all shine at one point in time.
In my opinion, the single most cliche statement I hear all the time is “Find something you’re passionate about”. Not only is the phrase cliche and overused, but my initial response to that statement as a teenager was “How?”— “How can I suddenly find what I’m passionate about?”. But it really clicked when I actually started involving myself in various different activities; you may or may not be enthralled by it, but you must give it a try in order for you to decide. Try out for the tennis team. Enter the Poetry Out Loud Competition. Sign up for Patio on Fire. Beyond the walls of the school, look for service opportunities and do what you enjoy. When the time arrives, you’ll catch yourself fully absorbed in something you can finally call your “passion”.
That we humans crave routine is a fact supported by numerous psychological studies. We are animals of routine, accustomed to conducting a series of actions repeatedly due to the comfort the familiarity provides. Establishing a morning or night routine benefits our lifestyle in many ways, but the biggest advantage is an improvement in time management and control of our life in general. Consider this: between Maria who gets home from cross country practice everyday, showers at 6pm, eats dinner at 6:30 pm, starts homework at 7:30pm, and goes to bed at 10, and Jennifer who gets home from volleyball practice and watches TV at 6pm on some days and starts sleeping on others, who lives in a more organized, structure manner? Flexibility is a key component that we have to embed into our lives; however, a balance between routines and flexibility is what will open the doors to a healthy high school life.
Having piles and piles of friends is great, but if your relationship with them are shallow and disconnected, what is the point? High school is a time for change and new discoveries; whether you like it or not, you are prone to go through a transformation of some sort, whether it be in terms of personality, physicality or interests. Finding a friend who will support your choices, encourage the changes you make, and appreciate you as you will go beyond the traditional role of a friend. Having many relationships may increase the number of likes on your Instagram picture or the number of snapchat streaks, but the need to maintain and manage those relationships will add to your exhaustion already piled up from school work. Hence, devote yourself in a few strong relationships with people whom you can rely on, you are comfortable with, and you know will always be on your side. Quality over quantity.
In the tip above, the emphasis is placed within the parentheses. Play hard within reason. The balance between working and playing is important—it is an irrefutable fact—but realization of your current position is critical as well. At this age, at least in Korea, you are expected to learn: that’s how society has been shaped over the several decades. Rather than complaining and rambling about your status, simply embrace it. Remember you’ll only be a high schooler once in your life, but also that you’ll only be applying to college once! Make the most out of it.
Whatever choice you make, wherever you take yourself, be brave and bold. After all, whatever you decide to put on the new canvas given to you, regardless of whether it’s a straight line or a scribble, when you look back, it will be art–a spectacular work of art.–
– Hannah Kim (’18)
Graphics by Neo Pak (’19)