by Seejun Jeong
This college application essay was submitted by Seejun Jeong, one of the hardest working and most responsible students I ever taught, who went on to attend the University of Southern California. Seejun left his native Korea to attend high school in America, and ended up living here without his parents to complete his degree.
The obstacles he relates below are things he never discussed or used as excuses to his peers and teachers; in fact, few at Pinewood were even aware of them. Seejun hardly knew English when I met him as an underclassman, but he nonetheless earned one of the top grades in my course.
One of the most courageous moments I witnessed as a teacher was when this shy and softspoken young man stood onstage in front of his entire school to sing a love song he composed in his native Korean for his overseas girlfriend. After the song, his peers gave him a rousing ovation. I am honored that I had the opportunity to teach him…
Snap! I felt pain, surprise, and shock. People were yelling and shouting around the room, but I could hardly hear these sounds because of my agony! Everybody’s attention fell on me until an ambulance rushed in and took me to the emergency room. My friend Hyunwoo broke my right humerus while arm wrestling in an SAT Prep Class activity. It was the summer between my sophomore and junior year, when I went back to Korea to stay with my family. With that sound, I fell into an abyss that eventually led me into a whole new world.
After the incident, I had to be hospitalized for the first major surgery in my life. Then I came back to the United States. However, because of my mom’s health, she went back to Korea to have surgery. During that time, I was in charge of the household for the first three months of my junior year. I took care of bills, went grocery shopping, and helped out my little brother and my grandmother, who did not speak English at all. All of a sudden, I had these responsibilities on my shoulders.
Moreover, my arm became infected and fluid came out constantly. I couldn’t use my right arm, and I was not able to play on the soccer and tennis teams. I really missed being part of the teams and meeting new friends. The worst thing about it, though, was what th edoctors at Stanford Hospital told me. They told me to undergo surgery at that moment before the infection spread, or else I might lose my right arm. But, I did not want to miss my junior year. So I decided to postpone the surgery until the winter break. It was a difficult time for me because I was on antibiotics for months and in extreme pain.
Because of all these worries and frustrations, I felt depressed. I was also frustrated about the fact that it was the most important year in my high school years. I secluded myself in my room thinking about many things in life. I didn’t know why I was angry, but I was, and started blaming Hyunwoo. I was really worried about the possibility of having cancer in my bone. I sometimes thought that I was really worthless without using my right arm. I always thought that these kinds of misfortunes were someone else’s story, and I was amazed how things went wrong in a series.
When the winter break came, I went back to Korea to undergo another surgery. When I came back to the United States for the second semester, I started to see a streak of sunshine enter my window, when all the doors had closed on my life. My music teacher, Mr. Cullinan, chose me as one of his SWARM (Students Writing And Recording Music) students. I previously took two semesters of his music history classes and felt excited to learn about the history of music. I even memorized all the music in the movie, Amadeus, which I borrowed from Mr. Cullinan. After learning and understanding the pieces by great composers, I was really looking forward to taking his SWARM class so that I could compose my own songs.
The purpose of the SWARM class is to create our own music using keyboards and a computer program called Pro Tools. It gave me an opportunity to develop my passion and love for music, and to express what was inside of me. It was interesting to express emotions through art. I even composed a love song to my girlfriend, who is still living in Korea. At the end of the year, I was able to perform my pieces in front of the whole school and produce our CD’s, which included my love song.
I also had a chance to show my creativity that I couldn’t show in academics or athletics. As a result, I focused on the music rather than being angry at my life and Hyunwoo. I forgot about all the stresses that I was having that year while I was concentrating on music. Creating the music relieved the pain, and I also gained a friendship between a teacher and a student, spending a lot of time working on music with Mr. Cullinan. I put all my emotions, passion, and time into creating my art.
That is why the SWARM CD is the most valuable thing in my life. During the first semester of junior year, I sunk into a deep hole. I could not concentrate for a long time or participate in any sporting activities. With this CD, I took a step forward in my life instead of being controlled by my fate. SWARM class introduced me to a new music world and made me create a great friendship with my teacher. Now, I am considering majoring in music at Stanford like my teacher Mr. Cullinan. This CD is my baby, which arrived after the series of the most difficult events in my life. I am sure that I will meet other difficult problems in later life. Then, I will listen to this meaningful CD and believe that I can go through those problems again as I did last year.