AISG Student Spotlight: Gabriel Jongmin Kim

Summer is in full swing and AISG's Class of 2020 is preparing for their first year of college, with big plans for their futures! We're highlighting a diverse set of our graduated Rams to find out how AISG has impacted their lives and what they plan to do next.

This week, we get insight from Gabriel Jongmin Kim, an AISG 2020 graduate who served as President of Economic and Social Council at Seoul Model United Nations during his senior year. Gabriel came to AISG from Seoul, South Korea in 2015 and is passionate about global issues. Let's see what challenges he faced and where his future is headed.

With the school year ending, was there any moment or event that defined you, and how did it impact you?

For school year 2019-2020, the answer is quite obvious: there is no single event other than COVID-19 that had a bigger impact on me, AISG, and the rest of the world. If I had known that a global pandemic would result in the complete cancellation of on-campus classes for the rest of my senior year, I would’ve better hugged and given my final appreciation and farewells to my friends, teachers, and everyone at AISG. I was really, really looking forward to our senior trip, senior lock-down, and graduation ceremony, but COVID-19 ended up just taking away everything from our Class of 2020. It's such a big disappointment that I will be unable to take photos with everyone for one last time during our graduation ceremony. :(

How did the IB curriculum affect your feelings towards education?

I came to AISG as an 8th grader in SY 2015-2016 from a local school in Seoul, South Korea, and I have to say, international school education has a tremendous amount of benefits, such as the opportunities to learn a second foreign language and to improve essay writing and speech/presentation skills. The past two years of IB curriculum was a long, exhausting journey with all the lengthy essays we had to write on top of all our tests for our six self-selected IB courses. Yet, as difficult as it was, I personally look back at those two years through rose tinted glasses and genuinely believe that the hard work was worth it and will eventually pay off in my future in university and work.

Was there a teacher that really helped you become the person you are today? Who was it and how did they affect you?

This is really difficult to answer because I’ve had such fine, wonderful relationships with several teachers throughout my AISG career, and I can’t choose only one because then I would feel guilty. Therefore, I would say my IB teachers––Mr. Gomes, Mr. Cheung, Dr. Escalante-Mead, Ms. Wang, Ms. Dean, and Mr. Madden––all helped me become who I am today. It is no doubt that two years of IB were the most stressful AND important time of my life, so whenever I had concerns––not only about grades, but also about my life––I was able to approach them and just comfortably chat with them for hours after school or at lunch.

What do you feel was your biggest accomplishment this school year?

In this shortened school year, I think my biggest accomplishment was serving as the President of Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in November 2019 at Seoul Model United Nations (SEOMUN), the biggest MUN conference in South Korea. To prepare for this three-day event, I had to write a 6000-word ‘Chair Report’ over the entire summer of 2019 on a topic related to economics, a subject area of my passion. Then, during the actual event, I was able to lead my committee in a congenial manner and successfully wrap it up at the closing ceremony by giving a speech in front of a large audience at the Theater of Seoul Foreign School.

What were your favorite extracurricular activities and how did they help shape the student you became?

I was involved in many extracurricular activities during the past four years at AISG, but I would definitely say Model United Nations (MUN) was my favorite. I first joined MUN in 9th grade, just thinking that it will look cool talking about global issues in suits. But then, as I met several outstanding students from other international schools across the globe, I was naturally inspired to become better at public speaking, learning the rules of procedure of MUN, and simply being more knowledgeable about the world and its accompanying issues. Those experiences allowed me to make lasting friends with countless talented students from different schools who share the same passion as me.

With the outbreak of COVID-19 and the disruption to on-campus classes, what was the biggest challenge you face and how did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge due to COVID-19 outbreak was the difficulty in communicating with teachers and peers. For instance, if I needed help on a particular subject, I could’ve easily just approached the teacher during break time or after school under normal circumstances. However, due to the forced online lessons, I had to go through the hassle of sending an email, matching the available time, and talking in low-resolution Teams video chat with my teachers. How did I overcome it? There was no clear solution, except saying“Pardon?” or “Sorry, my Wi-Fi or yours is lagging!” multiple times and having patience during the call.

What did you miss the most being away from campus?

I definitely missed spending time with my friends and teachers the most during my time away from campus. To be more specific, I missed the playful bantering with my close friends during free periods and lunch. I missed the lively class discussions during my IB classes. I missed chatting with my teachers about topics of all kinds. I just missed walking around AISG campus and sharing the space and time with my favorite people.

What were your feelings when you heard students could return to campus? What did you think of the new regulations in place to keep everyone safe?

My instinctive feeling was jealousy. After not seeing my friends and teachers since January, I really missed them and was looking forward to seeing everyone, but I was stuck in South Korea, unable to return to Guangzhou due to visa issues. Based on what I saw on AISG social media, I thought the new regulations were carried out successfully, considering the fact that no one got infected after returning to school.

How did you celebrate the end of year/graduation?

I received a DHL package from AISG containing my AISG high school diploma, graduation cap, and IB medal. On May 28, when some of my peers were at campus attending the graduation ceremony, I dressed in formal attire plus the cap and sat in front of my Mac Book with Zoom opened. I met some of our AISG peers who are in Korea on May 28th so that we could at least celebrate the distant graduation ceremony together.

What are your plans for the summer? Will you go anywhere or do anything special? If so, what will it be?

I was originally planning to travel to Japan and watch the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with my childhood friends in Korea, but the plan has obviously gone awry due to the outbreak. Other than that, ever since the IB finals were cancelled in March, I began to do two things: 1) tutoring some middle and high school students in Korea to earn some money and 2) making investments with the money I saved over my life in stocks, bonds, or mutual funds. I began these activities to try getting a preliminary taste of the “adult world”. I most likely expect myself to continue doing these activities throughout this summer.

Where will you be going to college and what are you looking forward to the most?

It’s either between Hong Kong or Korea. For Korea, I will apply to universities this summer, so I have no idea yet about my options. For Hong Kong, I have been accepted to both HKUST’s and HKU’s renowned global business program, but I need to first meet their IB finals conditional offers. As someone who wishes to live an international life and work in the business or finance industry, I personally want to go to HKUST’s Global Business Program over every other option, but the only thing that will stop me would be if the protests continue. I’m looking forward to meeting new faces the most, but I sadly think it will be difficult due to the virus.

What at AISG has prepared you for your adult future?

My time here at AISG has truly prepared me in so many ways for my adult future––not only with educational, semantic knowledge, but also the intangibles and soft skills, such as self-directed learning ability, presentation and speech skills, report writing skills, plenty of leadership experiences, and the art of negotiation. As someone who aspires to become involved in the business or finance industry, I sincerely believe that all those skills that I acquired during my time at AISG will aid me throughout my university and occupational voyage.

What accomplishments do you dream to achieve in the next five years and how will your education at AISG help you achieve these?

Five years is honestly such a long duration, and I have so many things I hope to accomplish during that time. First, I want to go on an exchange program to the US, particularly to Los Angeles, since I lived there for five years during my elementary school days. Second, assuming that I’m studying at Hong Kong, I want to try out as many internships as possible for both financial institutions like Goldman Sachs and multinational corporations like Facebook or P&G. Third, although this is the most improbable, if the right opportunity comes at a right moment, I want to try launching a start-up, preferably with a friend who shares my vision, and getting hands-on experience in the world of business.

AISG is proud of Gabriel and his perseverance through this unprecendented last school year. We look forward to following and supporting his path as an AISG Alumni.

Once a Ram, Always a Ram!

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