June 6, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Profile: Inji Hwang, Valedictorian


For Inji Hwang, the path to GSA began with an intense, overnight, prostrate bowing ceremony at Baekryun Temple in Korea. The ceremony, which consists of 3,000 of these prostrate bows, is a form of prayer and requires much endurance and patience, both of which are attributes of a good student.Inji, with that same endurance and commitment to academic success, became GSA’s 2012 valedictorian by displaying talent and putting forth strong effort in her classes.

When I asked Inji what drives her to study with such strong effort, she said, “This is a boring answer, but it’s a habit, [and] that’s the truth.”

And it is a habit that undoubtedly took a significant amount of self-discipline to maintain while away from home. In fact, the bowing ceremony was a way for Inji to show her father that she would continue to take school seriously after coming to America, she said. She has, of course, continued to take school seriously and has kept up with her studies.

It is well known that the successful do not merely work harder, but work smarter, and Inji is no exception. She said that her secret to effective studying is that she pretends to teach the subject, and holds that teaching is the best way to learn. When she was young, she would pretend to be a teacher, teaching other students in her room, she said. Though she doesn’t do this any longer, an internal dialogue continues, tirelessly teaching an imaginary pupil.

Inji’s methods seem to have worked for her not only at GSA but back home, where she was ranked first in her middle school. Though she’s been successful both in Korea and in the United States, she said she likes school much better here. Inji said that the United States education system seems to suit her talents better than the Korean education system. Here, she can concentrate on learning and not worry so much about her grades. “I don’t care if I get an eighty on an essay,” she said.

Ms. Richards says she always got great work from her. Richards said that she still uses a poster Inji made “as an example of what students should do,” and that Inji “doesn’t just do the homework,” but uses it to gain a “better understanding of the subject.”

Mrs. Orlofsky agreed. Orlofsky said that Inji is the most talented pupil she’s had in her thirty year’s teaching. Inji has an “inherent ability and a true understanding of what you need [to do] to learn a language,” she said

Before she came to Blue Hill, Inji was studying as a freshman in French Canada. “The school offered a French immersement program and I wish I had taken that,” she said. It was as a sophomore that she finally came to the Blue Hill Peninsula looking for the same thing as many residents ‘from away’. “I was looking for a relatively small school to know everyone. I needed to get out of the city,” she said.

She seems to have found exactly what she was looking for. She had a hard time thinking of ways to improve GSA. “More language courses” was the only suggestion that she finally offered.

Inji, of course, has many people to thanks for the role they have played in her success. She was sure, though, that she most wanted to thank her father, saying that he helped her the most.

Inji’s father was “not like everyone else.” Others were stressing the importance of doing well in America, but he was “chill” and just expected her to do her best, she said. He “doesn’t get disappointed when things don’t go well.” A spiritual Buddhist man, she said he does not get terribly angry or excited over small things.

Neither of her parents were surprised when she was named valedictorian. “Oh, that’s great… make sure your speech is good,” they said, according to Inji.

Inji has ambitious plans for the future. She hopes to work for the U.S. State Department after studying French and Foreign Affairs at Georgetown University. She also thinks about getting a degree in Political Science or perhaps going to Law School, she said. She hopes that she can then get a job in a D.C. embassy and earn enough money to buy a summer house in Blue Hill where she can “chill” (like the capybara on this page).Richards offered some advice to Inji and the rest of her class. “Be a trendsetter…an outlier… Don’t be satisfied with limits,” she said. And “when you achieve one goal, set another.”

Mr. Perkinson recently awarded Inji the Maine State Principal’s Association Award. He said in his speech that he can think of no better place for Inji than in diplomacy and foreign affairs, working towards the continued dream of world peace.

Inji said that she’s not proving anyone wrong by becoming valedictorian. She’s thankful that most everyone in her life has always been supportive of her. It appears that now is no exception—the GSA community is behind her.


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