Featured Student Author: ChungHyun Lee


Kat Sarafianos

[dropcap]F[/dropcap]irst day of school, interviews, college applications. I dread these for the same reason: they ask me questions to define myself. I have never liked answering those questions because I struggled to pinpoint who I am. Am I rigid on schedule or flexible? Am I a leader or a follower? Am I algorithmic or creative? After an entire summer of self-reflection, I have decided I am all of these things, yet none of these things. I defy categorization.
I have lived in Korea, China, and the United States isochronally. I now recognize these experiences as privileges that have allowed me to encounter various people, places, events, and philosophies at an early age. With a wide range of perspective, I progressively developed a rather balanced character. However, I did not grow up in my hometown, or even my home country.
When I lived in Korea, it seemed like I was living in fast forward; every day blew past me as if I was not getting all 24 hours promised each day. Life in Korea is a constant sprint based on the belief that time should not be wasted, Koreans fill their schedules, leading them to become incredibly efficient. And impatient. This was a typical day for me: waking up at 7AM, attending school from 8 to 4, going to additional education from 5 to 9 p.m., doing homework until 12 a.m.; rinse and repeat. Algorithmic. I had less than an hour of spare time on school days. Since I was kept extremely busy, my time-awareness was retrospective. I would only realize how much time has passed after I checked my watch, and would wonder if time evaporated while I was obliviously busy. Living in Korea required time management skills. I learned to plan events ahead, to be on time, and to complete the tasks within the planned time frame. I disciplined myself to follow this breakneck schedule.
Life in China was almost the opposite of life in Korea. People were relaxed. Most did not live by a rigid schedule and often acted spontaneously. Fei, my Chinese friend, played soccer with me when he was supposed to be doing homework. At the time, this behavior was alien to me, because I had disciplined myself to adhere to my schedule. However, this Chinese lifestyle seemed less stressful than the Korean one I was living. I tried to incorporate the flexibility of this foreign lifestyle.
Maybe it was the fact that I had physically moved to the western hemisphere; my unfinished chapter in the US has added a new dimension to my life. Adjusting to life in the US, I was taken aback by the amount of leisure time I was allowed. I replaced after-school education with extracurriculars such as soccer, Mathcounts, band, and Key Club.  These activities were not only fun but also beneficial because I was able to further develop real life skills related to communication, creativity, leadership, and teamwork. I learned to distribute my time wisely in order to complete schoolwork while pursuing my hobbies and interests; this lessened the stress and added perspective, enabling high efficiency. I also learned to be opinionated yet amenable, which helped me fathom different outlooks of my parents, friends, and even presidential candidates (though it has been difficult this year.)
Where do I belong? Where is my home? I have learned to make my home anywhere; whether it is going to school, playing soccer, counseling friends in distress, or writing poetry analysis in AP Literature. Mentoring Vietnamese students who barely speak English and blending into the Brazilian culture among 120 Brazilians at summer camp. Learning a traditional drum rudiment, then altering it to invent new variations. My homes have edified me to become uniquely omnifarious. I now define these places as parts of myself. It’s not one or the other. It’s all blended. I defy categorization.