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  • Writer's pictureElisha Bae

Summer Before College



Look, in all fairness, I had a schedule going for my blog posts, but everything went haywire when I came to Seoul.


There were so many things that had to be done, like getting my VISA sorted, going to hospitals for overdue checkups, trying to get everything ready for me to start packing, and making time to spend with my friends and families. I thought that my time in Seoul would be relaxing, just like in Jeju, but boy was I wrong!


It had been a while since I spent an extended period of time in Seoul — ever since COVID hit, I couldn't travel back and forth easily as I had been doing in the past. And our family moved into a new apartment during that time, so I haven't had time to adjust to my home in Seoul.


The change of scenery from Jeju to Seoul made a lot of difference in my day. I would wake up to the sounds of cars honking and would be able to see rows and rows of apartments. But I did love having my packages delivered early in the morning even if I had ordered them in the evening the night before (it's the little things that count). For a while, I spent my time going through my old things since I hadn't really used them when I was in Jeju. We had to get new bookshelves because the one I had in my room was from when I was a little girl!


 

Quite a few times, I would go out to meet up with my friends -- some were friends from NLCS, and some were friends who lived abroad and were visiting Korea for the summer. It was weird meeting my Jeju friends in Seoul because we had so many places we could go visit, whereas in Jeju, we would be restricted to one or two good restaurants near our homes.


I've not only connected with friends from NLCS but also with ones that I got to know from Swarthmore! I already had a few friends that I would talk to almost daily, and it was so crazy that I met a girl who was almost identical in personality, choice of hobbies, and lifestyle. We had two video call sessions that lasted 3(!) hours every time. It was great to see her before I even got to campus.

 

Then there was the whole debacle of receiving my IB grades! On the day that the grades were released, I spent three hours staring at the computer screen and refreshing the page over and over again, only to be greeted with an error message because, hey, no server is going to withstand all IB students trying to connect to the same website at the same time all over the world!


I finally gave up trying and went to sleep. When I woke up the next morning, I had no trouble getting onto the website that time. My final IB score was 43, which was actually what I was expecting. But there's a story behind this -- when I saw what score I got for each subject, I was shocked to see that it was a 6 instead of a 7. Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to sound obnoxious, but my theatre teacher, who had been teaching IB theatre for 10+ years and also worked as an examiner, was more than confident that I would be getting a 7 for my final grade.


There were two components to the grade, one being a research presentation and the other being my Director's Notebook. I've poured my heart and soul into both of them, but when I got the specific breakdown of my scores, I saw that I received a 4 for my Director's Notebook! I'd gone through three drafts of it, making sure it matched every criterion. I ended up writing around 8000 words (which is double the amount I had to write for my Extended Essay). But I didn't want to get my scores remarked because, at this point (of me being a student at Swarthmore), I didn't care.


But my theatre teacher did! He sent me an email asking whether I would consider sending the score back for a remark. After knowing that if my grades changed, they wouldn't charge me, I said yes! And it was totally worth it because I ended up receiving a 7 for it after all!


It's not a perfect score, but it actually helped me think about my future career at college. If I had gotten a perfect score, I still wouldn't have been sure where my talents lay. Now I'm both confident with my ability and happy to pursue psychology.

 

After my IB scores were out, I had to start preparing for the annual NLCS Jeju Alumni College Event. I saw my friends in the year above me do it when I was in Year 12 and dreamed about the day I would be in the same position. I helped out more than I thought I would since I was still the former Head Girl -- I collected all the list of students who would present (this time round, we had 14). Even after that, I met with the Parent Representative Group and discussed what the process of the event was going to look like, how to communicate to the students and parents, and what the parents and younger students were curious about when it came to college admissions.


I was so happy that I got to be a part of it because I was the only student going to a Liberal Arts College in my year. So I made it my duty to help spread the word about the LAC system. It's not very well known in Korea, which meant that I would have to convince them that it's not always about the name value of the college that makes everything worth it.

 

The day for me to actually leave Korea and go to Swarthmore is approaching quite quickly. For the past few weeks, I was getting all of my placement tests done, going to the hospital to get vaccinated, and getting health forms filled out. I spent a large portion of the weekends shopping for school/dorm supplies, ticking off everything on the extensive list.


I also got my VISA -- it was so much easier than I thought it would be. I had prepared all the potential documents that they might ask for but ended up showing only one out of the 13 different documents I'd prepared. I'm still a little salty about that.


But now, I'm also thinking about the future and what it has in store for me. I'm going to be on campus earlier than anyone else because I have international orientation. It's so cool that I'll be opening up bank accounts and getting a new phone number when I get there!


And the fact that I'm leaving Korea to go abroad is also amazing -- it's been almost two and a half years since I've taken a plane to somewhere other than Seoul/Jeju. Can't wait for it!!

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