About my shiny life

In South Korea, we put a big emphasis on the age of 19. Even we have the proverb, “The score you’ve got on 19 could depend on your whole life.” Isn’t it so brutal? But it is a long-standing culture of Eastern society, just like China’s Gao Kao and Japan’s EJU (Examination for Japanese University). We have a Korean SAT called “Su-neung” that we regard as a social ladder to climb up to the high class.

More than five million students annually take this test to enter the university. Sadly, many Korean students set their whole teenage goal on getting high scores on this test and if they fail to reach their goals, they just keep trying to take a test until getting accepted from the top university they want. As a person born and raised in Korea for 24 years, I was also profoundly absorbed in such a society.

I was born in Daegu, the third-largest city in South Korea, and moved to Andong when I was five. 191km, it is a distance from Seoul to Andong; Andong is far from metropolitan Korea. It is in the southern part of Korea with a population of 100,000. Briefly talking about my hometown Andong, it was a small and conservative city. The age distribution of Andong showed severe imbalance. As of 2020, the figures for the young from 0 to 29 years was under 10,000, whereas the number over 40 was around 25,000. Therefore, it was natural for us not to receive high education. Under this situation, studying was the only way I could pioneer my life. To make matters worse, my family’s business went bankrupt during my high school times. Therefore, to reach my goal and find my evacuation, I’ve tried my best all my time; that was the easiest way to change my life.

However, on November 16, 2015, when I was 19, I took Korean SAT. It was the first failure in my life. As a person accustomed to ranking in first place in my whole life, I cannot explain all the emotions that I had felt then. But one thing I firmly can utter was that only desperate, hopeless and miserable feelings surrounded me. Plus, there wasn’t anyone who could give me a tip or advice on dealing with this situation. Therefore, I am just stuck at my home and passed the entrance exam after a year in 2016.

Although I was qualified to set myself free, I always considered my family first. Our family members had suffered from hard times, and we had lived separately for three years. Therefore, at 20 years old, a little girl thought that practical studies such as computer science were stable for me to find a job quickly which could contribute to the household. According to the Salary explorer, working as a programmer typically earns around four million won (400$) per month, which is 1.5 times more than other jobs. So, without hesitating and considering what I wanted to be, I just entered the school and studied computer science as an undergraduate.

My bachelor’s life was monotonous. As usual, I was genuinely attentive and caring to my family members. When my friends felt liberated from the test and spent pleasurable time, I was always fixated on the library to capture a scholarship and did two to three part-time jobs every semester. Luckily, thanks to my effort, we all could live together when I graduated, and our economic status was fully recovered. Furthermore, I accepted the offer from a famous IT company before graduation. All situations turned back to the point and I finally can see the silver lining in my life. It seems that I captured everything; however, I wasn’t that satisfied at all more than I expected. Moreover, the job I chose wasn’t attractive to me and I don’t want to put myself into a repetitive life circle.

After a month from my first day at work, I thought I didn’t want to let my life spend like this. Instead, I wanted to pursue big dreams, widen my eyes and follow what I envisioned in my mind. Thus, I decided to reveal my voice which was asleep and I chose my first selfish choice to pursue my master’s degree at Tsinghua.

October 1, 2021, was a meaningful date for me. It was on the date that I came to China that I started leaving my milestone. I haven’t set up a detailed time plan for my future now. But one thing I want to become is a writer who can narrate our neighbor’s story. I want to describe every second of their life and deliver their heartwarming story to the world. I am introverted, though I am more proficient at paying attention to others’ stories than anyone else. Therefore, I would like to envision my life as a moderator who can deliver touching episodes to the public. Compared with my past life, always setting A to Z or following the social rules, I would like to listen to my heart that it wants and follow them for the next five years.

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Coline Kim

Coline Kim

Story Teller based in Seoul and Beijing