You Are Perfect Just as You Are—Jiyoung's Global Footprint

Following last time's Alumni Series article, let us introduce more of our alumni to you. Here is Jiyoung J from Class of 2013 presenting her story about "You Are Perfect Just as You Are-- Jiyoung's Global Footprint".

Let us see how they are making a difference to the world.

My name is Jiyoung, back then known as Jennifer J. I attended Dulwich College Suzhou (DCSZ) between 2007 - 2013 and was one of the first cohorts of students to graduate. I moved to America to major in Metropolitan Studies and Environmental Studies at New York University, and went on to study MPhil in Planning, Growth and Regeneration at the University of Cambridge. 

Upon graduating, I took on various positions at UN-associated international organisations in South Korea. I have now settled down in London where I work at a PR and Communications consultancy with a focus on the built environment, working with clients including architects, developers, investors and city councils. I am also a part-time UK correspondent for South Korea’s Arirang Radio programme. 

Finding my interest

During middle school, my mom gifted me a book called ‘City-reading CEO’, perhaps hoping that her daughter would grow up to be some kind of CEO. After opening the book with reservation, I was surprised to find out that its author was involved in planning my hometown Sanbon in Korea. 

As a third-culture kid living abroad, I always wondered why I had such a longing for Sanbon, even though it was far from being the most impressive city I had visited. In addition, Suzhou’s rapid pace of growth was incredible, with entire apartment complexes seemingly sprouting out of thin air. I was amazed at the pace of these changes, and wondered whether they could be sustainable. The book helped me to begin to understand these fascinating problems. In the course of my studies I came to focus on the built environment and city planning, and how this defines people's experience, sense of belonging and patterns of living and working.

Studying at DCSZ

Hailing from South Korea, I moved around a lot, studying in Hong Kong and China during my childhood. As is the case for any international student, there were huge cultural and social barriers for me to overcome, having been uprooted from the Korean public school system and then placed into all-English international schools. However, my decision to move to DCSZ equipped me to overcome these challenges, helping me to grow into the resilient and independent individual I am today. You may be surprised, but I never realised how fun studying could be, or how fun socialising with friends could be, until I came to DCSZ. DCSZ was the first place where teachers first recognised my ability in maths, playing the violin, chemistry or any other subjects, and encouraged me to dream big. 

Moreover, it is where I first encountered a close group of friends who knew how to congratulate each other’s achievements rather than trying to devalue one another based on jealousy (and yes, we still keep in touch with one another to this day). 

During my time at DCSZ I was also Music Prefect and Head Girl, which taught me early how to take on serious responsibilities. Becoming the Anand House Captain meant that I had to set an example by taking part in various competitions – including sports day and cross country – despite being far from athletic. Although I never came in the first place, I knew that I put in my best effort by practising sports on the weekends and jogging around the neighbourhood in the evening.  

My Advice

One piece of advice I’d like to give everyone transitioning from DCSZ to university, or at any stage of their life is: “you are perfect just as you are” and “try to enjoy every moment that you have.”

During my time in DCSZ, I was a perfectionist, saying yes to every opportunity that came my way. I would be frustrated at getting a single question wrong on an exam. At a certain point, you overwhelm yourself which leads you to perform less well and enjoy life less than you should. Towards the end of my IB years, there were many times when I would run into the counsellor’s room crying, overwhelmed by the pressure from my family, the wider community, and eventually myself.

At one point there was even a rumour that I got accepted into Harvard, even before taking the exams. Not to mention a massive argument I had with my family about receiving lower final scores than predicted grades. Funnily enough, today, no one asks about what IB grade I received, or what extracurricular activities I did in high school. While all my past experiences served as valuable foundations for my achievements in universities and professions, I sometimes wish that I enjoyed my youth and my time in China more. Believe it or not, I never played Tamagotchi, never watched vine, only visited Shanghai once or twice during my eight-year stay in China, and in fact still haven’t been to the Terracotta Army or the Great Wall!

Nonetheless, I made sure to try fun and unique things during my time at New York University and the University of Cambridge alongside my studies. I briefly joined the Quidditch club and Cheese society, took an entire semester course on noodles, enjoyed concerts and plays, started my own Urban Design and Architecture Society, coordinated food for over 1000 people at a Cambridge May Ball, travelled all around Europe, and even picked up a certificate in bartending. These are the kind of things that add value and joy to my life, and things that I might only have one chance to experience. 

Your current grades and achievements in DCSZ – whatever they may be, remember that they only mean something because of you. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t study hard and try your best – but once in a while, pat yourself in the back, take a break and daydream under the sun, treat yourself out for a nice coffee or meal, have a lovely chat with your family and friends, and try out things that you can only do at your age and in your current city and country.

You are doing really well guys, and cheers for all the great things coming your way.