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Oh, the high school daze..

May 25, 2011

High school – those are your prime suffering years. You don’t get better suffering than that”.  well said Steve Carell, Little Miss Sunshine.

I’d say in high school I was decently miserable.  It was probably because I listened to The Smiths too much, my hormones wouldn’t decide if they wanted me to be happy or sad, and because I was bored almost 6 hours out of the day.  But at the same time, beneath all the high school hormones, emo-ness and self-pity, life was great.   When Morrissey and Conor Oberst weren’t convincing me to be melodramatic,  I was throwing rotten vegetables out the windows of a Rav4 at the boys’ cars while racing down suburban streets.  I was going to the beach until the sun went down,  I was hiding in the walk-in freezer at my first part-time job and scaring the other workers when they opened the door…

This recent high school reflection has sprung from learning about what growing up is like for Korean students.   Turns out Korean children are the unhappiest in the WORLD, for the third year in a row.  Not coincidently, Korea also has one of the highest rates for suicide around the world as well.  Teaching in an elementary school, I can tell you that my students seem pretty darn happy.  They run around laughing and screaming and making jokes, you know, normal kid things.  Still, their lives are busier than most 5-10 year olds around the world.  After the school day, some of the students will go to multiple private academies to continue their education.  English, music, science…you name it and there is a private after school academy for it.  Korean parents spend more money per child on private tutoring and classes than anywhere around the world.  Yet, it seems as if life gets really hard for Korean students in high school, and I could never imagine living the life they do.  My co-teachers were recently telling me that in high school they didn’t leave school till around 11pm every night, even Saturdays.  This was what was required.  They basically studied from the time they got up in the morning, until they went to bed.  Korean high school students are also extremely sleep deprived, getting maybe 5-6 hours a night.  All of this work to get into a good university, which is very competitive.  Every test score matters, every homework assignment counts.  Can you imagine high school being like this at home?

What’s more is that Korean students are put under extreme pressure to look good and fit the mold.  Like in a previous blog, many of them get plastic surgery and are extremely concerned about their appearances.  Not like high school is bad enough for them, now the must also be a size zero, have beautiful hair, skin, round eyes  and a small face.  (Yea the “small face” thing I don’t really get..)  High school is hard enough when you are self conscious about your appearance, but at least in the U.S. diversity is valued and we have many different concepts of beauty.  I always had a diverse choice of role-models to pick and choose what I thought was ‘beautiful’.  Here, in this homogeneous nation, they only want to look like famous Korean celebrities and like each other.

I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour
But heaven knows I’m miserable now….

After comparing my high school experience to theirs, it seems as if The Smiths, Bright Eyes, Death Cab for Cutie, and Brand New might be a little more appropriate for these kids. Maybe they need to introduced.

*Thank you Miss Natalie Lyall- Grant for supplying these great pictures of your high school students for this lil blog.  They really capture the attitude and personality of high school girls in this country.*

And thank you to The Cave, the ones that share these same memories with me.  The ones that drove around in my Sentra, listened to this music, and helped me just “waste time”.   🙂

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Dad permalink
    May 26, 2011 2:53 am

    Fantastic post. Your perception, foresight and knowledge of what is going on around you is more than impressive. Start thinking about your first travel book.
    (or am I just biased) L.

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