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Moving From Korea to the US: My Experience

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By Eileen Ahn

Moving from Korea to California in the US for my education has been a transformative experience. Back in Korea, most of what we owned as a family had been a combination of thrift store purchases and the generosity of family and strangers alike. Growing up in my personal swap meet, I never perceived our situation to be financially dire because kids just see the world in a simpler way.

Despite the comfort of close family, stable jobs, and fluency in language, our parents brought my brother and me to America in the hope that we would pursue a better education than they had been able to receive. Adapting to this new environment and learning to live in a new culture was a challenge, but whenever I felt discriminated against, hurt by condescending comments from those who have lived here longer, or frustrated by snarky remarks that undermined my work ethic simply because I’m Asian, my mom was there to support me. In that confidence, I found my way.

Had we stayed in Korea, I know without an ounce of doubt that my routine would have been study, study, and more study. There, school starts at 8am and kids don’t return home until well after 10pm. Here, I have the freedom to choose my path by allowing myself to be myself. I love pursuing the academic subjects I’ve chosen, having the time to help acclimate incoming freshman to their new environment, and advocating for environmental justice or other issues I’m passionate about.

I understand why we moved here in the first place, struggles and all. Here, I discovered the vast resources that help people like us focus on finding happiness and dreaming enormously big.

I find I have a passion to create something, which wouldn’t have existed without access to higher education. I want to show that perhaps even an immigrant girl from a small town in Seoul can someday become the professor who uplifts students who are following in my footsteps. Eventually, I want to help create a new environment, where the term minority will not serve to define women of color in STEM, where low-income students will feel powerful enough to strive for prestigious schools without self-doubt. I look towards the future knowing now it’s my turn to help others.

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2 Comments

I look forward to hearing from you.

Hello, nice to meet you, I feel the same way after reading your personal story. You come to a new place, a new beginning, a new challenge. I would also like to have the opportunity to study or work in the United States. I hope that this day will come earlier and that I will have more opportunities to contact you. thanks