Freshman adds new perspective to SHS melting pot

September 14, 2010 — by Samika Kumar

It is the first day of school for freshman Paul Sung Yoon Choi. Spanish 1, his second period, has ended. Not one for many words, he quietly gets up and grabs his backpack.

On his way out, several guys walk toward him. They are all Korean—he can tell by their looks.

The guys are friendly enough, Choi is sure. They introduce themselves, and before Choi knows it, he makes his first friends.

Choi’s first day of school may seem like an ordinary one, but of the 85 new students at Saratoga, excluding Redwood Middle School graduates, he brings one of the most unique narratives into the SHS melting pot.

Choi has spent the past decade moving between numerous U.S. cities, Vancouver, Canada, and his hometown Seoul, South Korea.

The order of his travels is complex.

Choi first came to America from Korea in kindergarten. After spending two years in Salt Lake City, and one year in Vancouver, Choi and his family left the continent again for Seoul. They spent four years in his hometown before migrating to Boston, where Choi spent seventh and eighth grade.

During their stay in Boston, Choi’s family applied for a permanent U.S. residency. The government accepted them a year later, which resulted in the family’s final voyage to Saratoga this summer.

His family chose Saratoga because of the family friends who live nearby and can help them settle in.

Of the schools he has attended, Choi found students at Saratoga the most inviting.

“I think students [here] are more kind and friendly than [students from] Korea and Boston,” he said.

He specifically found his Link Crew leaders helpful. Link Crew’s tour of the school was advantageous to him, and their overall introduction dissipated his main concerns. Choi said his first day at school flew by smoothly; “it was not that hard” to find his way around and get accustomed to changes.

Choi additionally discovered immense differences between Saratoga and his secondary schools’ environments.

“[Saratoga High] is very new [to me].” Choi noted. “In high school, we have to do [everything] by ourselves.”

He felt his other schools did not pile as much of a burden on students’ backs.

But Choi decided his Korean school, Shingu Middle School, was almost an inverse to all his American schools.

“In Korea,” he said, “most students sleep during the class and do their work at home. But in America, they participate a lot in class.”

Academically, Shingu gave little homework but more tests.

Choi has altogether moved schools—more or less, countries—many times, so SHS is not much of a novelty. If anything, he looks forward to the “more opportunities for sports and academics” that he knows SHS offers.

When considering which sports he would like to try in the following years, he merely laughed.

“Basketball and…maybe football. Maybe.”

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