Dealing With "Upperclassmen" and the Pressure
Story By: Chera Yoon Editor: Paul Kim Web Designer: Li June Choi
It is important to understand that it’s not only good grades that are essential to high school students. There are various aspects associated with maintaining a successful life in one’s high school years. Perhaps the most important of all would be keeping steady relationships among students from all grade levels.
Many of the students at SIS mentioned that maintaining relationships with “upperclassmen” were troubling, as the Korean culture defines the elder to be wiser and more experienced. Different students referred to the sunbaes -- a Korean term for upperclassmen -- with different perspectives. “Underclassmen definitely feel more uncomfortable when approaching older ones. We have a tendency to want to respect the elders and look nicer in front of them because of our culture,” said Jessica Ryu, a rising sophomore. As a freshman, going through her first year in high school, she proved the existence of pressuring experiences with upperclassmen.
The unseen distance between the underclassmen and upperclassmen has an implicit but definite existence - to an extent where it is noticeable from the freshmen to the seniors. “It’s not that the upperclassmen are mean, just that people are intimidated. Even if one takes the chance and approaches them, they feel like a burden. When made a mistake, underclassmen feel that they are taken away the second chance to look better in front of one’s older and more experienced,” said Angela Yoon who is in her final year of high school. Many upperclassmen confessed their uncomfortable duties when dealing with strained underclassmen.
There were differing perspectives on this concept, however. Yoon Lim (9), sharing a different opinion compared to the Korean society, said that she lacked personal experience when feeling pressure towards upperclassmen. “It’s enjoyable to form bonds with people you never expected to become close with,” she said. “Sunbaes, to me, are new friends that happily welcomed me into HS, not intimidating monsters trying to eat us up for not showing any ‘respect’.”
While it is reasonable to say that age determines the amount of experience an individual had, there are opposing opinions on the image of upperclassmen. While some think of it as an easy job to maintain close relationships with students of older grade levels, others feel burdened when approaching an upperclassmen.