October 6, 2016
Turning 20 has several meanings in South Korea: being able to drink, exploring and enjoying the college experience and starting adulthood. In Korea, we don’t count age in full because South Korea starts the new academic year in spring and it ends in winter. I had an eight-month gap year between my high school graduation and college. All of my friends were very excited for their gap years that they had extensive lists of things to do during the time. I was excited too, but I wanted to do something more meaningful than busting into a pub as the New Year countdown ended, something that would help me become a responsible and independent adult. So, I decided to work full-time and live apart from my parents.
I worked at Paul Academy, a private tutoring center or Hagwon, which prepares students who are studying and planning to study abroad for the SAT, ACT, AP and IB. It was located in Teheran-no, a street in Seoul concentrated with banks, convention centers, international finance companies and the center of the notorious South Korean private education industry. The street is full of entirely glass buildings and three-meter-tall trees, which I thought was somewhat an odd, yet beautiful combination of civilization and nature.