[Student Essay] Service is about collaboration, not competition

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[Student Essay] Service is about collaboration, not competition

Seyoung Jang (Grade 11), Branksome Hall Asia
“Service is about collaboration, not competition.”
This quote resonates with me to this very moment. As a student who always felt pressured to “be ahead of the game,” I was exhausted and overwhelmed by the never-ending competition. Competition pushes us to chase aggressive goals and over-achieve our standards. However, it also blinds us from the opportunity to pause, step back, and admire our surroundings. Caught up in determination to move forward, we often fail to look beside ourselves, where others who have the same goal and ambition lie upon. If competition makes us faster, collaboration makes us better, and therefore, it is essential for students to collaborate — not compete — with each other. The following article will share my personal service-learning experiences and the key takeaways I acquired throughout my service journey.
Étudions with Me is an out-of-school club that provides free 1-to-1 online English classes to elementary school students in South Korea’s public schools. This initiative addresses the educational inequality issue caused by Covid-19, in which students, especially younger students who have a short attention span, were not able to receive high-quality school education. Étudions with Me currently involves over 40 international school students worldwide and has assisted over 40 students from more than 20 Korean public schools.
I am currently part of Étudions with Me as the co-director and the teacher of one grade 6 student. Étudions with Me was a meaningful experience that enabled me to meet students with the same interest and devotion for education. The synergy effect that passionate students created together was significant. The co-directing experience taught me how to work with others in the same field instead of trying to be better than them.
The next activity allowed me to dive into the interdisciplinary field of my interest between education and computer science. During the summer break before my Junior year, I became part of the COVID Community Insight and Impact (CII) project led by professor Savannah Thais from Princeton University. CII provides custom community assessments tools and data consulting services to non-profits and other public interest groups for quantitatively understanding and responding to community needs.
One project I am currently part of is the Planned Parenthood Sexual Education Study project. Our team develops a customized vulnerability metric to identify communities that lack sexual health care and where the Planned Parenthood services are most needed. As a student interested in data science and data analytics, I had the opportunity to get hands-on experience with organizing, labeling, and cleaning real-life data sets. It also taught me the power of data analytics and how such academic investigations could make a real-life impact on those in need as it provides a thorough insight into our society. CII motivated me to hone my analytical skills and achieve my future goal of leading my own data science project to support the local Jeju community.
Other than the two activities listed above, numerous service-learning opportunities have deepened my passion for service. This includes co-founding a school club called Mandorong that donates handmade masks and Hickman pockets to the Korea Childhood Leukemia Foundation, organizing the monthly newsletter for a non-profit organization called Milk Delivery for Seniors, and volunteering as the translator for the 6th Korea International Accessible Dance Festival.
Going beyond supporting the needs of my community, service enabled me to feel valued as an individual. I built confidence in my potential to contribute to society, which stimulated my intrinsic motivation to seek communities in need and be observative of my surroundings. And I hope my fellow students could also embrace every one of their service-learning experiences to acquire these life-changing lessons. 
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