What I Learned from My School

January 16, 2008
By Jay Shim, Culver, IN

Standing in front of the mirror that morning, my father’s words echoed in my head. “It’s final. There will be no more talk about it. You’re going to military school.” It seemed like a dream. I pinched myself to make sure I was awake. My father was a very conservative man, and like most traditional Korean fathers, he was not going to sit around and watch his son spend his teenage years playing video games and watching television. But still, did it have to come to this?

In retrospect, I guess he was right. I had no goals to speak of. My friends were busy getting tutored and studying for tests, and I was always busy trying to divert their attention to more exciting activities like playing games and just hanging out. It seemed like everybody was set on the path to success and I was stuck on the dirt road to failure. However, military school was quite unexpected. I nearly choked on dinner when he announced to the whole family he had taken the “liberty” of enrolling me in America’s finest military academy.

I arrived at Culver on a hot summer day in August. I had resolved to punish my father for sending me to this God-forsaken place. I would be a rebel, a renegade. No amount of discipline was going to keep me down. Then, fear set in.

The school was intimidating. I could barely sleep my first night there, and when the bugle sounded the alarm at six thirty in the morning, I was already awake. I tried to be invisible. I didn’t want to be noticed. My delusions of being “James Dean” flew out the window. I just wanted to go home. After a few days, though, I started to get used to the routine. A few of the other students approached me and helped me to adjust to the schedule. Had they been troublemakers, I probably would have also lashed out. However, these students seemed highly motivated, and this made me want to do well. For the first time in my life, I wanted to work hard.

I watched as the other students worked diligently to get good grades, and I felt motivated. I felt the motivation from deep inside my mind. I had never set goals for myself, but now I wanted to achieve something. That rebellious teenager who wanted to punish his father for sending him to this place now wanted to show his father he could succeed.
My first goal was to earn a Silver A, an award given to students who attain a GPA over 3.2. It was the first time I had truly studied. As I saw my grades improve, I worked even harder. At the end of the term, I received my report card. I was afraid to look. I had my roommate read the letter for me and he suddenly said, “Congratulations Jay!” I never knew achieving something academically would feel this good.

More than anything, I learned I could accomplish whatever I put my mind to. I matured and gained confidence in myself. I took a detour off that dirt road and joined my friends in that road to success.

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