22 Jul, 2022
10 : 00
If you are a current YCIS student or have been keeping up with our most recent accolades, the name Sungwoo and maths will come to mind. Other than being the recipient of many maths competition awards, participating in Model United Nations, and groovy guitarist, the IGCSE student has done plenty to contribute to the YCIS community and was recently awarded the Yew Chung Yew Wah IGCSE Scholarship Award.
Sungwoo and his family moved to Shanghai in 2019 from Seoul. He and his younger sister, Yeonwoo, are both bilingual Korean and English speakers. Although their family had lived in Shanghai for a brief year stint when Sungwoo was in Year 3 at YCIS, moving to a new city as a teenager, meeting new friends, and learning a new language simultaneously can be a lot for a 13-year-old.
Luckily for Sungwoo, his outgoing personality and willingness to try new things made the transition from Korea to China smooth. As for communication, Sungwoo learned a version of traditional Chinese that is used in Korea before he arrived in Shanghai. After five years of learning Chinese every day at YCIS Shanghai, he says he “can have conversations with locals”, which is a humble statement for the wordsmith who excels in English and Chinese at school.
In our renowned Chinese Language Programme, our Years 4-6 students study one hour of Chinese language every day, based on their learning level. Our oldest Primary-aged children also learn about Chinese culture in more depth. Sungwoo will start Year 10 this autumn, where all IGCSE students take one class period of Chinese language lessons daily, tailored to their ability. During these high school years, classes focus on high-level vocabulary and topics, such as global issues.
One of the things that stand out is Sungwoo’s maths accomplishments. He set records for the school and China, placing 3rd out of more than 8500 of his peers around the globe in the international Caribou Math Competition. In previous rounds of the contest, he placed 1st in China and 6th worldwide. Not to mention the other awards in his Mathematics trophy case, including the International Division of Math League (USA), University of Waterloo Gauss contest, and a multitude of certificates for AMC10.
YCIS Pudong Secondary Mathematics teacher Mr Tomas Crowley taught Sungwoo in his most recent Advanced Mathematics class and describes him as an “extremely gifted mathematician and probably the best I have worked with in my 16 years teaching Mathematics. Extending Sungwoo is one of the most challenging parts of my job, as he picks up new topics very quickly and will work very hard to understand concepts not covered before."
Sungwoo stays motivated by "having the opportunity to be on a bigger stage and competing with students from around the world."
The love of mathematics is a family matter as Sungwoo’s sister, Yeonwoo in Year 7, placed in the top 2% out of almost 24,000 maths contest writers. He tells us, “although we have a degree of competitiveness, we help each other more often than not. For example, Yeonwoo will help me with Art, and I'll help her with Humanities homework.”
Sungwoo says, "I am challenged and can set the bar higher for myself when I see the level of problem-solving skills from peers outside of school. The results [my sister Yeonwoo and I] obtained show us how much effort and diligence we needed to succeed. It also reminds us that there are areas of improvement for next time."
Beyond Sungwoo’s constant maths accolades, Sungwoo is heavily involved in Cross-Curricular Activities (CCA). Over the past three years, he has participated in over 15 extracurricular activities, including:
When we acknowledged the diversity of his CCA collection, he told us, “I try to participate in various activities because I know I will gain distinct experiences from the opportunities each activity presents me. For example, I tried Stage & Show Band and now playing guitar is a hobby I truly enjoy.”
One extracurricular that stays close to Sungwoo’s heart is community service. From a young age, Sungwoo and his family would take trips to different community centres in and around Seoul to lend their time to those in need. Sungwoo says, “I’ve found that some of the best memories I have are from community service-related projects at YCIS.” One of those projects that Sungwoo is heavily involved in is the Eco Garden, led by the Eco Committee. “The aim was to create biodiversity on campus so that the environment can sustain itself and also be a place for students to reap the benefits of nature in school.” The project first started when Sungwoo was in Year 8, and although faced with challenges from the pandemic and the inability to be on-campus with his classmates, the project is a huge success two years later. “When we returned to campus, our committee made detailed blueprints of the garden, researched the types of plants that were most suitable, and physically built the rooftop garden,” explains Sungwoo.
He is excited to start the Eco Committee back up this autumn when we return to school and wants “to improve and develop the garden in ways such as creating a self-sustaining water dispenser without the use of electricity, putting insulation measures in the winter,” and more. Sungwoo adds, “I learned about teamwork, communication, sustainability, and how much change I can bring to our community through service projects.”
Sungwoo gives credit to his motivation and personal determination, his parents' support, and the mentorship of his teachers at YCIS for being a committed student in and out of class. “I like learning in an environment with a lower teacher: student ratio and I believe this has helped with my achievements”, says Sungwoo. “For example, when I was in Years 9 and 10, my teachers knew my abilities and strengths and allowed me to take the advanced physics classes. This challenged my thoughts and knowledge in physics.” Additionally, with the low ratio, “teachers can spend more time with individual projects and support students develop their ideas into actions which I value because it helps us bring change to the society we are living in immediately”, adds Sungwoo.
This autumn, Sungwoo hopes to hold math sessions for younger students to help them prepare and practice for the same maths competitions he is passionate about. Sungwoo explains, “based on my past experiences, the more you practice, the better your score will be.” He hopes to coach his younger peers in preparing for maths contests as he believes “by having these sessions, students will receive better scores, thus impacting their confidence, and encouraging greater participation in maths contests.”
We love to hear how Sungwoo’s mission to share his love for maths competitions with his peers will add to his past initiatives. As he is part of the advanced Mathematics class, Sungwoo ran online revision lessons leading up to class tests and exams for his classmates. These virtual revision lessons were joined by the majority of the class as they were helpful and approachable. This is all done of his own free will, to ensure his classmates succeed.