At Seoul International School (SIS), we have the great privilege of having immensely talented students across diverse disciplines, from academics to sports, music, arts, forensics, community service, and more. Last year alone, five students scored perfect scores on Advance Placement tests. They are Jin Wook Shin ('23) in Physics I, Clare Hyunsuh Kim ('23), Abigail Kim ('22) and Rachel Lee ('22) in Drawing, and Hyunseo Yoo ('22) in 2D Design.
To put this in perspective, Jin Wook is one of only two students out of nearly 145,000 test takers in the world to have earned every available point on the AP Physics I exam last spring. Clare, Abigail, and Rachel are among 343 out of over 19,000 test takers to achieve a perfect score. And Hyunseo (Philip) is one of 197 out of over 37,000 test takers who achieved a perfect score on AP 2D Design. Two students, Jin Wook and Clare, are now in their senior year and took the time to tell us their unique stories.
Clare Hyunsuh Kim and her older sister are what SIS students call “Lifers,” having attended SIS since Kindergarten. Originally from North Carolina, Clare arrived at SIS via Irvine and Tokyo. For Clare, who had a perfect score in AP Drawing, art started as a hobby, an opportunity to take a breath of fresh air from her otherwise hectic academic load. She is interested in pursuing a career in sociology or law and this has made her very aware of geopolitical social justice issues and current events. With her natural interest, Clare found her way of artistic expression by researching socio-political topics that inspired her and delving deep into her art to find a way to explore that topic.
Her methodology of researching topics meaningful to her and finding a way to make art from it aligned perfectly with the AP Drawing portfolio requirement that asks for an artistic statement to support the artwork. Because she felt very deeply about her chosen topic, she was able to focus that enthusiasm into a well thought out argument and thesis for her artwork.
When asked how she was able to balance her studies with the intense work required for the AP Drawing coursework, Clare says that she chose to stay very focused during her class and worked with disciplined intensity within the classroom structure. SIS' 80-minute classes, designed for exactly this purpose, allowed Clare to limit the time she invested in her artwork to class time. This made it possible to keep her work load well balanced and prevented overworking her portfolio. But what Clare credits as the most important aspect of her process is her art teacher’s unwavering support, allowing Clare the freedom to explore her unique approach to art and at times controversial subjects. The support and guidance of her teacher was instrumental in Clare’s achievements as an artist.
The strong personalized support of teachers at SIS was also the most important factor in a perfect score in AP Physics 1 for Jin Wook Shin, an aspiring robotics and computer engineer who says that physics is a fun subject for him, both intuitively and directly. When he was planning for his AP courses in the 10th grade, Jin Wook says he asked his friends who was the best teacher to consult. They recommended that he start with the AP Chemistry teacher and from there, Jin Wook says the rest is history. He learned about core prerequisites like the 10th grade chemistry and physics courses put in place to give him the breadth and depth to identify his interests and abilities before jumping into more advanced course work. Jin Wook found that private academies or tutors are limited in their scope because they are not teaching the entire curriculum. His SIS teachers were so supportive and responsive that he states their advice as the one of the most important contributing factors for his academic success.
Jin Wook also attributes his success to his circle of friends, many of whom, like him, have high academic expectations and demands for their teachers and the school. He is able to rely on his friends for advice on both personal and academic matters whose understanding is a great comfort. Talking to his friends helps release any stress and he made an effort to stay in touch with them throughout the distance learning during the recent pandemic with regularly scheduled online hangouts.
His friends are also part of the SIS chapter of the Red Cross Youth Club with whom he volunteers at the homeless shelter kitchen close to the school called Anna’s House. Jin Wook became interested in working with homeless shelters when his mother took him to her volunteer work through the church during middle school. During the coronavirus pandemic, most shelters around the country were shut down due to fears of infection but Anna’s House stayed open. At first he went alone but was later joined by his friends and they still volunteer every week. When asked how he navigated through the fear of infection during the pandemic, he quietly smiled and said that he noticed there are zero superspreading events to date at a volunteer location and someone is obviously looking out for them.
His quiet confidence is also rooted in his family with whom he is very close. His parents and grandparents all support and trust his decision on what he wants to study as a future computer engineer, like his father whose love of science and technology is something he shares. Jin Wook’s advice for other students planning for their academics including AP courses is to consider the difficulty level and your base knowledge and to be sure to give yourself plenty of breathing room in your schedule with things like work study or sports activities to find a balance. For him, taking long walks with his beloved dog is one of the most helpful activities.
For both Clare and Jin Wook, having a great support system was instrumental in their academic success. Seoul International School is proud of each and every one of our students and hope that like these two excellent seniors, students and families will find personalized and diverse support within the SIS community. We wish Clare and Jin Wook best of luck in their senior year and extend our congratulations on perfect AP scores!