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Leona Kim: Independent Study Develops Character and Free-Thinking

Leona Kim

Moving to Busan, the student chose Sterling Academy for its flexibility and diverse courses. The school’s asynchronous environment and challenging curriculum fostered their critical thinking skills.Their education journey became a self-driven exploration.

High school in the new millennium is nothing like we know from High School Musicalor the musical, Grease.


Among the challenges facing many students today are finding their classes disrupted by an overabundance of undisciplined students, a social environment that isolates people because of their different attitudes or personal struggles, and teachers who confront the various challenges of their students with indifference or cynicism.

Consequently, when my mother told me we were moving to Busan, South Korea, which meant I was going to leave an environment that had become toxic, I was not entirely crestfallen. The fact that we were moving overseas meant I had to make a decision on continuing my education in a system that would keep doors open for my post-secondary education, or career choices when I finish high school.

Busan had several options for students with international backgrounds, such as myself. One of those options was attending one of its international foreign schools: Busan Foreign School or Busan International Foreign School. However, the tuitions there were over $32,000-$64,000 per year but only free to military families, which made that choice prohibitive.

Because my choices were extremely limited, I sought out my Japanese teacher from Artesia High School, Ms. Horita, for guidance. Thanks to her assistance, she found Sterling Academy due to many favorable reviews about the school and its ability to provide education to those living in other countries.

My experience with the school aligned with those favorable reviews, especially with its English, Pharmacy Technician, and social studies courses, and the option to join in its student website.

During my time at Sterling Academy, I was able to hone my writing skills through Sterling's English courses. Later, the opportunity to participate in the new student website, the Sterling Student Scrolls, required me to stretch my skills to write for audiences broader than just a single teacher.


The demands I took upon myself with Sterling's English and journalistic opportunities were much broader than those offered in my traditional brick-and-mortar school. There, I only learned how to comprehend literature and compare themes, but Sterling inspired me to learn contested usage, modifiers, non-restrictive elements, punctuation, subject-verb agreements, and parallel structure.


Furthermore, I was glad to take Sterling Academy’s Pharmacy Technician course because I had thought about pursuing a career as a veterinary technician. Although the course may not resemble the work environment of a veterinary technician, at least it helped me prepare for my possible career choice.

Working with Sterling Academy, I won the liberty to explore ideas and unique concepts that challenged the curriculum out before me.

For instance, the U.S. curriculum typically states that Keynesian economics, the government's use of borrowing and spending money, is what fuels the economy. But when I used the World Wide Web, I have found out that Austrian economics, or free markets, has brought a substantial effect on the economy: the basic use of supply and demand.

With Sterling Academy's asynchronous environment and the ability to challenge the U.S. curriculum, this taught me to respectfully question the information I was being told with facts, allowing me to search using my critical-thinking skills I could develop away from the traditional high school flock. I went from a sheep to a shepherd.

As I began to study for myself the events that shaped the world, I began to realize that my educational trek was dependent upon my individual passions, efforts, and discipline, rather than upon a collective effort within a group in a large classroom. This has helped me to understand that my life is based upon my individual choices to improve and move past my setbacks.

Possibly, my biggest influence in Sterling Academy is Mr. Strodtbeck because he taught me as an individual by telling me to focus on my talents and interests, while encouraging me to cultivate them aggressively. Without his input, I would have been mired in dependency for the rest of my life. His influence is the primary factor in my character development and I am eternally grateful for his practical teachings.

Sterling Academy has brought significant change to who I am as a person. With the school’s use of challenges and highly mature teachers, I went from being a disenchanted individual into an open-minded but skeptical individual. Thanks to my Japanese teacher, I had finally found the school that made me change my character for the better. When I first moved from Los Angeles, California to Busan,

Me in Daegu during an anti-dog meat protest, 2018

South Korea, I regretted living in its dreary weather. But thanks to Sterling Academy, I have no regrets.

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