A Gift from the Past
The years spent in elementary school can be a blur of memories for a lot of people, where you can’t quite remember if an event happened when you were in the Second or Fourth Grade. But I am able to distinguish very clearly the fifth year of elementary school. This is the year that I moved back to the U.S. after being gone three years, and it was the year that I met my teachers at St. Andrew’s School.
I was born in the states and grew up in several places along the East Coast until I was eight years old. Then our family moved back to South Korea, and during those three years that I lived there, I became part of a completely different education system. It was a difficult time of learning, and my parents did not know how I would readjust back to American education system. There were a lot of subjects that I had missed out on ranging from geography, U.S. history, simple math terminology and particularly etched in my mind was how I could not write in cursive as a Fifth Grader. When I started school at St. Andrew’s, I recall how patient all my teachers were, and most importantly how I enjoyed learning without any finger pointing or judging by my peers.
My memories of my time at school that year are very clear to me. I remember standing in line and reciting all thirty some prepositions in front of the whole class, and learning all the state capitals names. I remember being excited about playing kickball for the first time during recess, performing “Wade in the Water” in the choir, dressing up in a beautiful white dress and a garland on my head for Sacred Dance. I also remember a project we had to work on as we learned about the Oregon Trail during the Great Migration of 1843. We created fictional characters about the families who journeyed on those trails. I chose to write a journal written by a woman who was traveling with her two children. The journal was made out of fabric covered cardboard for the covers binded by red satin ribbons. I received an A+, and I still have it in my box of memories.
I am grateful to St. Andrew’s School for providing a safe place where I could learn and be myself. When I look back on the many international and diverse experiences, I had even before I hit age 11, I feel very lucky. But as a child, being different from others and being singled is a difficult thing, and fortunately at St. Andrew’s, I never felt like an outsider and I didn’t have to change myself to fit in.
I am proud to say that I continued my education in Richmond. I went on to attend Albert Hill for middle school, St. Catherine’s for high school and last May, I graduated from the University of Richmond as a Russian studies major. I completed my internship in Russia this past summer and I’m currently attending classes as a graduate student at Duke University for Slavic & Eurasian studies.
I think it’s important for all of us to contribute to a good education for children, particularly at the elementary level where it is most crucial time when a child will absorb everything around them like I did. Looking back, I know that St. Andrew’s was the invaluable footing I needed that enabled me to take the next steps, spurring my academic developments and formation of my character and making me the woman I am today. As I look forward to my future, I hope that I will be able to return to the school and community that gave me many rich memories and also enabled me to reach for amazing opportunities that have come my way.