By Howard Hwang, 14, Marshall High School
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Sometimes I wish my parents were not Korean. They have such high expectations for me. But it’s not just me — almost all of my Asian friends feel the same way.

My friends and I talked about this and realized that Asian parents have way more expectations than non-Asian parents do. We’re supposed to get straight A’s in school plus take art lessons and Korean classes on weekends. Our lives are bogged down with academics seven days a week.

I wake up for school every day at 6 a.m. School starts at 7:30 a.m. and ends at 3:15 p.m. Afterward, I go to my school’s library for tutoring for the next two hours, until it closes. Then I go to my neighborhood library to study until 7:30 p.m., when my mom picks me up. Sometimes I have to study a few more hours when I get home.

My parents expect me to get straight A’s, excel as an Eagle Boy Scout, be first cello in my orchestra, maintain my black belt in Tae Kwon Do and join clubs in my high school all the while diligently practicing piano and cello. I’ve got to take art classes and write for L.A. Youth. I have so much to do, I had to quit football, even though I made the team.

My dad tells me that all this work will pay off in the end, that when I’m on the job later in life, I will be used to pressure and be able to perform well under it.

"It will prepare you for the future," he says all the time.

I wish I could take a break

But I’ve been doing this for a few years already and am getting tired of it. Sometimes I just want to chill out.

In my family, I feel stranded in a house of high expectations. Starting with my dad—he’s a professor of molecular biology at Korea’s Hallym University. He’s starting a biotech company which will create medical products. My mom is the layout manager for the Korean Times here in Los Angeles.

I know that my parents have worked hard to be where they are right now. After they immigrated from Korea, my dad applied to UCLA from Korea, got accepted and immigrated here. He studied for six years and then got his Ph.D. My mom got a job in the Korean Times because she had worked on a similar newspaper in Korea.

They both grew up in the Korean education system, which is much harsher than the American system. Schools days are much longer. Students have 15 subjects a day. If they don’t follow orders, they get spanked. Maybe all this made my parents have high expectations. But I wish they would just give me a break.

My parents want me to be more like my amazing overachieving sister, Sharon. She now attends Yale University. In high school, Sharon won more than 40 awards from a variety of art, essay and extracurricular activities. She also had many hours of community service and even went to Japan for a week as a young ambassador.

Since my sister did so well, maybe my parents got the idea that this was what an ordinary student can do. Maybe they want me to be exactly the same as her. But I’m not.

Sometimes I wish my dad didn’t have such an intense study-based job. I bet if he were something like a grocery store manager or had some kind of job that didn’t require so much study, I would have a much easier life.

My dad once told me that since that I am a doctor’s son, I must be able to follow in his footsteps. I guess that means being successful and having to pass down the same expectations to my children. But I won’t do that to my children. I will just expect them to try their best.

When I look at it from a different point of view, I realize that my parents are just trying to do what is best for me. My dad explains it to me that in terms of "survival of the fittest" and says I should try my best and work hard as a first-generation child of an immigrant. But can’t he cut me some slack?

I have an American friend who complains about his 30-minute daily piano practice. He has one activity and feels overloaded. I could only wish to have that.

If I had it my way, I’d spend my extra time doing, well, I don’t know. I haven’t even thought about how I’d use my extra time, because I’ve never done anything else.
I am not saying American parents let their kids off easy or anything, but I am sure saying that Asian parents, especially my own, can sometimes be a lot to handle.