From SAS to art director in NYC

After reading my article on third culture kids, SAS alum EunSung (Angela) Kim, Class of 2011, reached out to offer her perspective on her time at SAS and how her years after graduating played out. Angela graduated from Pratt Institute in New York and is now working in NYC as an art director for Grey Group.

Angela first became interested in art at SAS and took many of Ms. Harvey’s classes. “Angela was part of a class of students who were probably one of the strongest groups I’ve ever taught and may ever teach in terms of talent, and even as strong in character,” Ms. Harvey said. “So to say that someone is strong within that group means that they were exceptionally strong. Angela was one of them.”

She said Angela was clearly focused. “Angela knew from the time she walked into my studio as a freshman that she wanted to go into art. She knew right away and she had her eye on the prize the whole time. She never handed in an assignment late, she was in here constantly, and I never knew what she was going to do. I very quickly learned to trust that she had a vision and she knew where she was going and that she was going to ‘wow’ us in the end, which was pretty amazing.”

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“Angela’s 3D concentration was painting humans. True to herself, she said she was going to do it because she believed in it. She did this amazing series of works where she painted on people and then photographed them, which is really hard. She was also involved in the dance community, and so she was able to tie that in. All those feet in that beautiful piece are actually dancers, so it’s a beautiful pull-together of her experience at Singapore American School.” – Ms. Harvey

The Eye: How did being at SAS guide you for your career path?

Angela: Being at SAS, I was exposed to diverse culture, resources and mentors. But what guided me towards the right path was just being surrounded by a group of talented people. The SAS community is a group of the most career-focused, self-driven people I’ve ever been with in my life. SAS is community of people from all over the world gathered on a small dot on the map. Every one us there had some sort of a plan, a dream to pursue after high school and we had all the support we needed to foster those plans. Supporting and nurturing students’ dreams is the best thing an educational institute can offer.

The Eye: How would you characterize your overall experience at SAS?

Angela: Crazy. Nuts. Insane. But so much fun. I have so many mixed feelings because one day I would be running on no sleep and rushing to classes with a panini in my hand and the next day I would be having a blast in the field during IASAS week. Overall, I’m so thankful for my friends and family for creating an unforgettable experience.

The Eye: What kind of classes influenced your love for art?

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Angela’s artwork for AP2D. Photo contributed by Angela.

Angela: Art and dance classes! I have been interested in art my whole life since I was a baby. SAS offered so many classes in the Arts from ceramics to darkroom photography to band and theatre classes. At SAS I took Art and Art Club in Elementary and Intermediate school, then AP Studio, AP 2D, AP 3D, Darkroom Photography, Digital Photography, Ceramics, and seventh and eighth grade band. As for dance, I joined Dance Club when I was in seventh grade because I really wanted to learn to dance. I took Dance I, II, III, Dance Performance and finally became a choreographer and JV dancer by my senior year. Art and dance really influenced what I do today.

The Eye: In what way did you struggle with the idea of being a “third-culture-kid”?

Angela: While I was in high school I didn’t think of it as much and to be honest that term didn’t kick in until I moved to the United States for college. That’s when the struggles became apparent to me. As an international kid, we paid an extra fee for college. We didn’t have our entire family and relatives moving us into our dorms. But with all those little struggles aside, the major one was dealing with the visa. Really, no one tells you about the complicated system you have to go through to work in the States. When you want to intern or work somewhere in the States you have to get permission from the International office and go through lots of paperwork. Constantly watching your back and making sure you are not violating any rules adds to the amount of stress you already have in school. And finally when you do graduate, not only is finding a job hard, but finding a job that will sponsor you is harder. But when I look back all the obstacles I had to go through, they made me more motivated and work harder to achieve my goals.

The Eye: Describe your time growing up in Singapore and attending SAS, and the major ways in which it shaped you.

Angela: SAS allowed us to experiment with many mediums we weren’t familiar with and created a safe environment to make mistakes. I also think the biggest thing was the competition. Everyone was very smart, aggressive and always striving for the best. Sitting in a classroom full of people like that not only makes you motivated, but it also stresses you out a little. A little stress is good. You need stress in order to succeed. If you were totally comfortable and acing all of your homework, there is something not right and you need to try an area you are weak in. SAS was great at showing us how to be leaders. A lot of hands-on and exploratory work was enforced in the learning environments.

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Another one of Angela’s AP3D works of art. Photo contributed by Angela. 

The Eye: Do you have any advice for current and future SAS students?

Angela: Join. All. The. Extracurricular. Activities.

Really take full advantage of everything the school offers. Volunteer for stuff, join new clubs, perform during lunch breaks and spirit activities, and make sure you eat all of the food because there’s nothing like Mr. Hoe’s food. Hands down the best cafeteria food in the world. Also, don’t try to cheat yourself out and take easier classes. Really try to take classes you wouldn’t be able to in college.

One more thing I would like to really advise the current students is: don’t be afraid to stand out and be yourself. From what I remember SAS was a very uniformed, perfect bubble. We were all too privileged and sometimes forgot to be ourselves. There is a whole world out there outside of SAS and you shouldn’t be afraid to stand out of the crowd sometimes. Talk to all of your teachers outside of the classroom. They all have experienced more life than you and if I were to go back I would like to sit down and interview every SAS teacher over a cup of coffee. After all, none of this would have been possible without the passionate faculty members of Singapore American School.

The Eye: Is there anything else you would like to add about SAS, your time in college or your career?

Angela: Really make the most of your years in SAS. It’s an incredible school and I can’t stress that enough. I always talk about it, even today with my friends and I have not met one single person not impressed by my high school experience.

Once you get to college, it’s a whole new journey. I can confidently say that SAS prepared me well for life after high school. I went to Pratt Institute and had no problem adjusting to a totally new environment (Brooklyn, New York) thanks to the adaptation skills I got from living in Singapore. After four years of college I landed my dream job as an Art Director at a top global advertising agency in the heart of New York City. I love my job, I love waking up every day knowing I can do what I love to do. SAS taught me to hold on to my dream and go after it until I achieved it. It also taught me to never settle for less than you deserve because being too comfortable with what you have only slows you down. Always be moving and be hungry for the next best thing.

Lastly, I would like to thank everyone at SAS and former students and teachers for shaping my personality and the person I am today. Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or need any advice. As an SAS alum I’m always an email away: angelaeunsung@gmail.com

Author: Diya Navlakha

Diya Navlakha is a junior in her tenth year at SAS. This is her second year as a part of The Eye. While originally from India, Diya spent her childhood in New York City and Singapore. A few of her hobbies include watching "Friends", baking, and spending time with friends and family. She can be contacted at navlakha33815@sas.edu.sg.

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