Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences that was particularly meaningful to you. (About 150 words)
I am not an eloquent speaker, nor am I a prototypical leader with charisma and panache. So when I received a letter from my school principal congratulating me for being selected as a prefect class of 2014, I was apprehensive. However, I was surely honoured and because I understood the great title always came with responsibilities, I forced myself to lead others. Gradually, I found myself giving more speeches naturally in front of large crowds, genuinely enjoying hosting school events, and interacting more confidently with my peers. I learned that leading does not necessarily require one to be large and brash. I could lead by example, and I found that my other personal characteristics such as consideration of others and integrity essential leadership traits. Hence, becoming a prefect has enabled me to embrace who I am and to see what I can be.
Please tell us how you have spent the last two summers (or vacations between school years), including any jobs you have held, if not already detailed on the Common Application. (About 150 words)
As a member of Chelee, I spent the last two summers hosting art exhibitions for visually impaired children. Chelee is a charity organisation comprised of Korean students from Cheltenham Ladies’ College, Eton College and Winchester College. The members and I visited various NGOs and companies to give presentations asking for sponsorships. We were able to raise enough funds to allow free entrance to the event. I was also able to convince 13 prominent sculptors to allow the visually impaired to touch and feel their words in a 3-day exhibition; thereby allowing children to experience the beauty of art.
I spent the rest of my time during the last two summers at a highly exclusive, six-weeks Maths camp called PROMYS. During spring break I partook in an internship at Seoul National University. These experiences compelled me to read mathematics at university. Maths is a wondrous field that dares me to explore it with both eyes and mind wide open.
In addition to the essay you have written for the Common Application, please select one of the following themes and write an essay of about 500 words in response. Please do not repeat, in full or in part, the essay you wrote for the Common Application.
Using a favorite quotation from an essay or book you have read in the last three years as a starting point, tell us about an event or experience that helped you define one of your values or changed how you approach the world. Please write the quotation, title and author at the beginning of your essay.
“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”
One typical morning during breakfast, my family noticed a garish advertisement protruding out of the day’s newspaper. Always one to analyse situations, my father who is an attorney explained why the advertisement was so persuasive because of the catch phrase. My mum and my sister who are artists would focus on the aesthetic qualities, explaining the reasons for the particular font, color, and layout. I then added my two cents:
“Mum, do you know that Hangul (the Korean alphabet) is the most mathematical language in the world? The alphabet is comprised of sets of dots, lines, and circles, which form perfect symmetries!”
I pointed to a word and continued, “If you rotate the word by 90 degrees, you create a valid new word every single time. So the Hangul lets us use the maximum number of letters in the minimum amount of space with the least amount of syllables, which is the fundamental concept behind topology. Isn’t this amazing?!”
My family members would look at me half confused and half in awe. But mostly, looking at me being truly excited at maths, they seemed concerned that I would be a sad, ostracised kid in school.
Indeed, I am sort of the black sheep of the community I belong to. I have dedicated my entire secondary education in a traditional all-girl school, where the mathematics is not the most fostered subject. None of my family members or relatives are mathematicians or scientists. To my families and peers, mathematics stands in a rarefied region. The subject is so disconnected from the other earthly endeavours that they believe it does not have much pragmatic value other than counting up groceries.
However, as a lone mathematician who has been brought up in non-mathematical environment, I was able to develop a more holistic approach to the subject. After all, for me, maths is like a persuasive language tool that my dad uses all the time; Maths is as practical as language since it is found all around us, just like it is deeply ingrained in the science of my native language, inseparable from my identity. For me, maths is like the art that my mum and sister practise; art works are spawned from the painstaking labour and creative minds that are liberated from the social convention. Likewise, I sketch mathematical proofs by thinking out of the box and looking to my imagination. I erase and modify the sketch until the proof is good enough to be painted. In its final form, the completed proof would be just like a carefully constructed piece of artwork, whose everlasting truth will convey a powerful message in this fast-paced, transient society. Thus, I do not mind being an outsider mathematician looking in. Through mathematics, I see things as they are.