The University of Iowa

International student spotlight: Heejin Kim

May 11th, 2020
Heejin Kim in South Korea

Heejin Kim in South Korea

During a time of extreme uncertainty, leaving many students’ semesters or college careers cut short, some students are finding a silver lining in the current adversity they are facing. Classes are being moved online, commencements are now virtual, and many are finishing their University of Iowa experience from home.

Heejin Kim is an international studies and Asian languages student who will be a Spring 2020 graduate from Seoul, South Korea. Showing true Hawkeye spirit, Kim says she wouldn’t have changed a thing about her three and a half years at the UI. Kim recalls how her experience at the University of Iowa all started. After attending a Korean university for a full year, she felt she needed a new environment and a new experience to combat the growing stress and uncertainty about her future. The UI’s language programs and diverse course selection were really what sealed the deal for Kim and convinced her to apply to the UI. She previously had studied Japanese in Korea for seven or eight years, and she dreamed of one day working in Japan, tackling International topics and issues. After researching all the UI had to offer, Kim knew that Iowa was the right choice for her.

Immediately upon her arrival on campus, Kim became a member of OASIS (the Organization for the Active Support of International Students), where she felt a sense of community.  The welcome came not only from OASIS and her fellow international students, but from the faculty, professors, and domestic students as well. She was able to meet friends right away who were in the same situation as she was, making her feel more comfortable as an international student on a Big Ten campus. The friends she made helped her discover new things about languages like Japanese, Chinese, and Korean by simply interacting and sharing stories about their daily lives.

The passion for learning about other languages and cultures did not stop there for Kim.  She was able to take multiple courses in anthropology, which she states were among her favorite here at the UI. “Each household has their own culture, and by listening to what they are saying, and sharing our ideas and thoughts about our daily lives or our own culture, it really helped me broaden the view of what the world looks like.”

Heejin Kim in Japan

Heejin Kim in Japan

Early experiences with OASIS, mixed with her coursework in Chinese and Japanese language, pushed Kim to pursue a study abroad experience in Japan. Kim recalls her study abroad experience  by saying, “It was really helpful for me to improve my Japanese, but also my knowledge about Japan.  It was really fun for me because I got to talk to a lot of Japanese people and have an experience that I could not have gotten without help from the university.”

Kim is now back home in Korea, taking proper precautions. She says that it has been difficult maintaining the fourteen day quarantine that is required after travelling internationally, but she does not want to put her family at risk.

Like many other college students Kim’s celebration of her accomplishments will not be what she had earlier envisioned. “I was really anticipating my parents coming to the United States again,” says Kim. But she and her family plan on celebrating her numerous accomplishments as they enjoy the UI’s virtual commencement ceremony.

Author