Stories of Suneung: From Preparation to Delay
Sam Sung-ho Park,‘20, Jaeyoung Jung,‘20, Sophia Ye-eun Kang,‘20
The Student Council Roots for the Seniors as the Suneung Approaches
The College Scholastic Ability Test — or “Suneung” in Korea — is arguably the most crucial stage of school life for students in Korea. For the students, this exam marks the end of 12 years of school and determines what university they will enter. However, unlike the American SAT, the CSAT is only held once a year, on November, making the exam more critical than any other exams in the world.
Due to its huge influence over the students, even months before the exam, all official schedules in Korea are managed for the perfect condition on the very exam day. On the test day, the stock markets open late and public transportation is augmented. Students late for the exam are escorted by police officers to test centers. Many Koreans are aware of both the importance of the test and the stress it gives.
HAFS was not an exception. As the Suneung approached, even months before the exam, HAFS tried to create a better environment for seniors to concentrate on their test studies such as stopping freshmen and sophomores from using the hallways, in during lunchtime. However, such efforts were also made through the Student Council. Weeks before the Suenung, the Student Council decided to carry out a traditional project to cheer up the seniors.
In November, the Student Council gathered with a heap of yellow and red Post-it notes. With them, they went to each floor of both male and female dormitories to attach the notes on the dorm window.
The plan of the Student Council was to write a huge motto — a message of support — by attaching notes together to form one huge letter on the window. The message read, “그대들의 열일, All 대박, which portrayed every HAFSonian’s hopes for the seniors’ success in Suneung.
Earthquake Delays Suneung
On November 15, the most influential earthquake up- to-date struck South Korea, delaying Suneung. The earthquake struck Gyeongsangbuk-do Pohang Buk-gu, at approximately 2:29 p.m. Two foreshocks, each with magnitudes of 2.2 and 2.6, occurred before the main shock of 5.4, and numerous aftershocks followed throughout the course of the week.
As the second biggest earthquake this country has gone through in the 21 st century, the Pohang earthquake injured more than 80 people and damaged over 3000 sites. Pictures of fires, collapsed ceilings, and cracks on the building walls were posted on SNS, stirring tension throughout the country. Messenger apps such as Kakaotalk and Facebook suffered from stops due to too many users being online simultaneously. In HAFS, students reported feeling heavy tremors in their classrooms and receiving Disaster Warning messages on their phones. Fortunately, there were no reports of physical or structural damage from the earthquake in HAFS.
But the real chaos of HAFS began when the Office of Education declared that Suneung would bedelayed to the following week. Such adjustment due to a natural disaster was unprecedented in Korea, especially because from the past, Korea did not experienced significant damage from the earthquake. For the school, this meant that major changes of the school schedule were necessary in order adjust to the delay. Upcoming events such as HAFS Zesty Concert, the final exam, and applicant interviews were officially delayed. The preparations for Suneung also needed to be done again. For the students, this meant one more week of waking up early at 7:30 a.m. for the 10 th /11 th graders, and one more week of studying for the 12 th graders. Various responses came from the students after the storm, ranging for one more week of agitation to despair or annoyance for the normal class schedule on the original Suneung date.
Korea was viewed as one of the places safe from any natural disasters, but this event has changed the people’s perspective on safety and preparations. No matter the responses and reactions, it can be said that this Pohang Earthquake is the most influential natural disaster in the history of South Korea.
HAFS Rearranges its Schedule for Seniors Near Suneung
Just after the midterm exams and less than a month before the CSAT, HAFS began its annual tradition to move the clock a bit earlier than the usual schedule.
The tradition was first started to help the seniors get used to the tough morning testing schedule, and it is not solely done by HAFS. In fact, because students have to be at their test centers by 8:10 am on testing day, many educational experts recommended students to get enough sleep at night with a regular sleeping pattern, such as sleeping from 12 a.m. to 6 a.m.
For four weeks total, this change had the dormitory run its morning alarm at 6:40 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. respectively, and students were asked to leave their rooms until 7:30 am. Meal times were also changed, with breakfast and lunch served at least twenty minutes earlier than usual. At night, yaza ended at 10:30 p.m. to begin daily roll call at eleven o’clock.
According to HAFS Dormitory, there is no set time period for the change each year, but it usually lasts three to five weeks. This makes the average duration four weeks before the actual exam. HAFS Dormitory also noted that this tradition has been continuing ever since the current teachers at the dormitory started working, which confirms that the annual change has lasted at least five years.
The change was to help the seniors, it seems that it also benefited their juniors. Aside from the benefit of practicing the routine before their own testing day one or two years later, some younger students believed that it gave them a better start each day. A first grader who chose to be anonymous commented, “The changed schedule was better for me since I could sleep earlier and get more things done in the morning. It was more efficient.”