Sea-Yun Joung, Class of 2018
Recent graduate, Sea-Yun Joung, received a perfect score across all of his final IB DP battery of tests in May 2018. This is a great and rare achievement as only 218 students made perfect scores out of a total of 163,173 candidates, in nearly 3000 schools around the world, sitting for the examinations in May 2018. This achievement comes as a result of a life-time of hard work and inquiry, involvement in solid educational programs, and influences from many directions.
Sea-Yun is a product of the entire IB curriculum, delivered to him in multiple locations throughout his primary and secondary educational years. He is a very intelligent, thoughtful, respectful, and introspective young man. We asked Sea-Yun, as an enlightenment to those interested in the IB program at TCIS and as an encouragement to younger students, to share about his IB experience and how his perfect score achievement has affected his university prospects.
Sea-Yun's IB Account
by Sea-Yun Joung, TCIS Class of 2018
The IB Continuum
I first entered IB through a public school in Australia from when I began my schooling. The local public school happened to have a diverse, international cohort, with many nationalities represented from all continents. In each class, the Learner Profiles were emphasised, and because of the sheer nature of our international cohort, there was a very open mindset that permeated into my learning.
I then transferred to a Catholic IB school, still in Australia, with a scholarship, and was very fortunate to experience first-hand, the fusing of religion and education. By this time, I was in MYP. The academic rigour was a step-up from my experience in the public IB school, but the mindset that my teachers imparted on me were especially useful in continuing my studies.
After barely adjusting to the Catholic IB school, I moved to an International IB School in Norway, due to my father's job as a naval architect. There, I completed my MYP Personal Project, which was by far, one of the greatest projects I had conducted. It was a combination of my own creativity and critical thinking skills to overcome all the practical problems that comes with a year-long project. However, because it was a project I chose, it was something I valued very much. I was also involved in several mini-projects through the Service and Action programme of MYP, in which I learned to Act Locally though with a global mindset.
Sea-Yun's Personal Project presentation booth.
The mindset I learned from PYP, and the creativity, academic rigour, and critical thinking of MYP paved the way to success in the Diploma Program at TCIS, because without the mindset that learning is life-long, and that there is something to learn from the other cultural traditions, it would have been difficult to perform well at IB exams. Furthermore, the project-based learning of MYP summative assignments and Personal Project allowed me to excel at writing my Extended Essay, as well as the various Internal Assessments that are vital for performing well in the DP.
My Extended Essay was on Biblical Allusions in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, in which I worked with two great literary works - the Bible and Jane Eyre, to argue that Biblical allusions were pivotal in constructing the novel's proto-feminist motifs. Though our modern readership may not fully appreciate the Biblical allusions or simply dismiss them as a mere remnant of the times, with an open mindset, I was able to approach the text from the way a deeply religious readership in Bronte's time would have perceived it. In the novel, there were many Biblical allusions, which seemed to develop into theological themes, without which, I argued, the novel would not be the same in neither literary impact nor historical significance.
In order to write the essay, I had to read from several different perspectives on different books in the Bible, as well as several different commentaries of Jane Eyre, in order to synthesise my own thesis. One aspect of the Extended Essay process that I cherished was the sessions with my supervisor, in which I explained my thoughts and discussed my very specific thesis with my teacher. In a sense, this whole process is an emulation of writing a university thesis, so the professionalism exhibited by my supervisor and the professional expectations in terms of format and writing style allowed for a strong essay.
The year-long process of writing a 4,000 word essay on a topic I truly loved writing about was vital in cultivating my time management and critical thinking skills, which were invaluable in studying for exams, and will surely be sturdy skills that I can rely on in tertiary studies.
One of the big projects that I began and completed (with some success) was collaborating with other IB students from around the world to compile a comprehensive Theory of Knowledge guide. The Service component in CAS is to find a genuine need in the global community and to strive to meet this locally. For me, Theory of Knowledge is the most important course taught in IB, as it encourages international mindedness and critical thinking. However, I often found that my fellow students often did not understand the spirit of the course and were therefore visibly bored in the TOK classes. Therefore, in collaboratively writing a TOK guide of the students, by the students and for the students, I hoped to invigorate discussion in TOK classes. In writing this guide, I was also interviewed and published on the IB website, as I explained my own experience of TOK, a large part of which was defined by this great CAS project.
Another great part of TCIS is the broad range of opportunities to do CAS, not just for the hours, but for real-life experience. APAC is one key example, in which I was able to travel to both Shanghai and Beijing to debate and play the violin. This was of course, a great boost for CAS hours, but was also a way to balance against the stress and rigour of academics, as well as to have intercultural experiences.
Preparing for a debate in Grade 9.
Overlooking a town in Norway, where he spent a portion of his MYP years.
A long-enjoyed passion, Sea-Yun plays chess in Grade 8.
Something perhaps unique about my study habits was my sleep pattern. I would try to go to bed at 8pm and wake up at 4am (though often unsuccessfully). Firstly, since much of academics in DP is about reading, the early bedtime (coupled with a strict self-imposed rule to not bring electronics to bed) ensured that I would read a lot. Secondly, the early rising enabled me to study silently without distractions for several hours per day.
More specifically though, I think study habits differed for each subject, though generally speaking, finding what is missing from the class is important. As strong as TCIS teachers are, there is only so much that can be taught in a class period, meaning that some things in every class must be sought out and studied on one's own. Memorising everything learned in class is not the point in IB, but rather, finding what is missing and studying it on one's own initiative is what good IB students ought to do.
Global Politics HL, for instance, is both highly theoretical and highly applied. In other words, there are so many real-life implications to the theories we learnt in class. One limitation I found with the class was that we covered very few case studies in depth (which is mostly because time is limited, and we could only cover the bare syllabus). Therefore, rather than revising theoretical notions that were meticulously covered in class, I learned case studies in quite some depth, and applied these in the exams.
Advice for Younger Students
I think there are three pieces of advice I would give all IB students.
Firstly, sleeping well is greatly important. Sleeping is necessary for active participation in class and ensures that any information learnt is retained. Partly because of the rather unhelpful rumours of IB, including on the various IB memes, I often found students visibly sleepy throughout their school day. This undoubtedly causes a vicious cycle, as students feel the need to study well into the night precisely because they learn little in class when they are sleepy.
Secondly, in-class discussions are the spirit of IB. Rather interestingly, I saw the best IB students always very active in class. Perhaps this is less relevant in Mathematics or the natural sciences, but in the humanities, I often used the examples given by my classmates as an opportunity to learn more. I found that discussions I had with other students about different case studies enabled me to have a much richer, more international bank of case studies I could draw upon whilst preparing for exams. Collaboration is really quite valuable. For instance, just a week before our final IB exams, I remember swapping case studies and mock exam papers with other top-scoring students in our Global Politics class. Because each of us had widely different experiences, the collaboration really diversified my knowledge of Global Politics. I think this was one of the great benefits of taking two humanities courses in the IB - because the questions in our exams are open-ended, we were encouraged to use our own, diverse, globally significant examples.
Finally, a rich, developing spiritual life goes a long way. Throughout my IB experience, my faith background played a substantial role as part of my identity, and can be found embedded in most of my IB assignments. My Roman Catholic faith tradition was instrumental, for instance, in my Theory of Knowledge essay, in which I used quotations from St Augustine of Hippo as a key example to support my main point. In Global Politics class, St Thomas Aquinas' Just War Theory was pivotal to understanding key notions in Conflict and Peace. Another key example would be my work in English Literature.
This is not to say that one should be closed-minded, uncritically and blindly accepting religious truth claims. Rather, I firmly believe that there is always a place in the IB experience for expressions of all cultural traditions, including faith, especially as cultural and religious knowledge systems are enriched through critical thinking. For example, my own Catholic Christian faith was greatly enriched through my understanding of evolution in great depth in the Biology classes. This understanding enabled me to take more nuanced, allegorical readings of Scripture, which deepened my knowledge of genres, symbolism, and motifs.
Embracing the contemplative richness that comes with meditation and prayer, I often stayed several days at Carmelite monasteries, during my IB DP years, which I believe strongly motivated my studies.
No matter from what faith or cultural background, deep contemplation through a rich, developing spiritual life might enable all IB students to think more deeply, perceptively and critically in their studies.
Support from TCIS
One piece of support TCIS provides is the access to various facilities after hours and during the weekend. I had made a Biology study group, which included the three top-scoring students in the Higher Level class, and we met at least once per week at the dormitory of one of the members of the group. Together, we would sit for several hours, with a dedicated time and space to study from the textbook, compare notes, and listen to YouTube lectures together. We would also make Quizlets, ask each other questions from the textbook and we even went over our mock exams together. I think this group was able to meet so often and for such long periods because of the dormitory, which provided a safe, quiet space to study as a group.
Furthermore, I had dedicated teachers, many of whom were IB examiners, which meant that they caught out frequent mistakes, and could give exam-specific advice in a way I imagine many teachers may not be able to. TCIS, in this sense, because of its strong teachers has a bright future ahead.
Additionally, I think another piece of support that I enjoyed and would love to see expanded was in religious studies. The semester-long course provided by Mr. Hahn was greatly insightful and taught me a great deal about other religious traditions. The sessions I had with Mr. Larry Smith on Acts of the Apostles enabled a greater understanding of the rich scriptural tradition of Christianity, as well a deeper knowledge in the differences between Catholic and Protestant readings of scripture. In this increasingly political, secularising world, a profound contemplation of the timeless wisdom of religious traditions was something TCIS supported me with, and is something that may be prudent to expand.
Finally, the Writing Centre run by Mr. Sanabria not only gave me corrections, but also asked critical questions about my texts, making me think about my writing, which was a great benefit of studying at the school.
University Position (at this time)
The IB is recognised all over the world, and a top score opens many doors, and the difficulty for me now is choosing between these options. I have been accepted to the University of Oxford, which required references, a personal statement, written work and four interviews with professors from my field of interest. Though I presume my IB score opens many more opportunities, I am especially interested in Theology and Religion, because it provides a vital framework to fundamentally understanding the politics, history and arts across cultures. In this way, I think the TOK classes have shaped my understanding of the world and my mindset - to contribute to promoting peace through understanding. After this acceptance from Oxford, I am planning to apply for a scholarship, as well as looking for alternatives to finance my further studies, which has been made much easier thanks to the IB Diploma.
Sea-Yun was recently accepted to Oxford University, adding another prestigious option to his list of possibilities.
On the other hand, I have also been offered places to study Double degree in Law from both Australian National University and the University of Sydney, as well as for a Ph.B. at the Australian National University. Whilst all these are prestigious opportunities from world-leading universities, the Ph.B. Program offered by ANU is quite unique, as is an advanced undergraduate degree with the flexibility to conduct research in the final honours year, and can apparently lead to pursuing a PhD straight after undergraduate studies. All these places in Australia are backed by generous scholarships, which exceed my tuition costs, so this is a very fortunate place to find myself. For this, I am grateful to both the IB and to my TCIS teachers for facilitating my learning.
Though I had learned about the Paradox of Choice in TOK class, I have the opportunity to personally experience this, given my favourable acceptances. In many ways, I am leaning towards Oxford, especially because it will allow me to study my firm interests and an infinitely deep level. The renowned Oxford tutorial system is highly appealing, as it entails studying in 1-to-1 or a 2-to-1 classes with renowned professors in the field. In many ways, this seems to be a continuation of TCIS, in which the tightly-knit community allows for this type of individual interaction. Also, Oriel College, which is my residential college at Oxford has a deep history and is where my personal hero, Bl. John Henry Newman taught (in fact, we were interviewed in Newman's old office).
The Extended Essay writing experience was one such experience at TCIS, which involved a close relationship with my supervisor. The close reading and research I conducted as part of my English Literature Extended Essay allowed me to find my interest and to actively pursue it. In many alternative education systems, independent research is not so integral, but in the IB, especially at TCIS, the Extended Essay experience allows one to experience academic writing, almost to the level of universities. In fact, my extended essay topic was something I discussed in several of my interviews at Oxford - the professors seemed impressed by the level of deep research I was able to do in my field of interest and asked me several questions about my arguments.
Also, because of the open-ended nature of almost all IB assessments, I was able to make connections between my subject and my peculiar interest in Theology and Religion. Whilst in many education systems, an answer needs to be memorised, in IB, I was encouraged to answer questions in my own way, integrating my own interests. For instance, I was able to research extensively about the religious differences that underpin several conflicts in the Middle East for my Global Politics class and was able to successfully explain these ideas in my exams. I believe that learning in the IB way led me to fill my essays with experiences and perspectives with little effort and allowed me to perform well in interviews with Oxford professors.
I am currently balancing between ANU and Oxford, the main dilemma being caused by the high scholarship offered by ANU, but even this generous scholarship is a product of my IB experience and the good teaching of most IB courses at TCIS.
Final Thoughts on the IB Experience
Obviously, the IB delivers a high level of content, which is recognised by world-leading universities, such as Oxford and ANU, as well as the other universities TCIS alumni have been accepted to with open arms. However, the IB is truly special because it motivated me to become a life long learner. Unlike my Korean school counterparts, I was encouraged to conduct my own research and to engage with the community in order to learn. One aspect of my Global Politics assessment was participating in a protest. One aspect of my Biology assessment was designing and conducting my own experiment. Content and learning aside, I am truly grateful to IB and TCIS because they have facilitated a level of curiosity that would be unmatched by most education programs.
Another great aspect of IB was the level of cultural interaction, which forced open my mind to understand other. In IB Language B, I learned Spanish vocabulary and grammar to a level well beyond the requirements for class. However, the IB takes this further and taught me how to speak to the heart of those with other cultural backgrounds. Throughout my IB studies across three continents, the IB has cultivated this desire to interact and engage with other cultural and religious traditions, as opposed to merely tolerating them. I firmly believe that this has made me a better global citizen with a firm desire for peace and prosperity for all people.
Finally, many IB teachers that have taught me are role-models for me to this day, because they demonstrated the IB values in their very person. I was deeply moved by the dedication they have for their profession, as well as the care they have for their students. These teachers have been pivotal to my development, because they have been inspiring models to emulate. In pursuing tertiary studies and in my career, I will undoubtedly continue to emulate my great teachers and develop further into the mold of a good global citizen.