Crossing borders – International students to receive a Hope College education

For every student at Hope College, a new school year brings challenges and adjustments. However, not every student has to adjust to a new country as well. For international students like Donghyun (Mark) Kim (‘22), coming to Hope for an education creates more challenges than the typical student faces. Although this isn’t Kim’s first time in the United States, his introduction to Michigan has been different than past experiences. “[Before Hope], I came from Trinidad and Tobago, because that’s where my parents are posted at,” Kim said. Both of Kim’s parents are diplomats, so moving to a new setting is not a new experience for him.

After spending the first 12 years of his life in Jeonju, South Korea, Kim was first introduced to America in July of 2012, when his family moved to Virginia for six years. After this experience, Kim spent eight months in Zimbabwe before returning to Virginia for another six months. “[Joenju] is a rural town,” Kim said. “There are a lot of old people living there and not many kids. It’s pretty boring and quiet.” One of the biggest differences between South Korea and the United States, Kim believes, is the education system. “I went to kindergarten [in Jeonju] and the whole class was 20 kids,” Kim said. “It was a very small school and hard, because I was not good at Korean.”

Kim found the rigor in his Korean school to be much more challenging than his school in Virginia. When comparing the material, Kim completed the same lessons in fifth grade in Jeonju as he did in eighth grade in Virginia. “Korea is a lot harder in the terms of math,” Kim said. Prior to moving in at Hope, Kim and his international orientation group took a trip to Northern Michigan, visiting popular locations like Mackinac Island. Kim felt this helped him adapt and meet new people along the way.

In addition to school material and community activities, Kim believes the overall town of Holland is extremely different than Jeonju.“The roads in Korea are just so much narrower, so it’s
hard to drive,” Kim said. “Everything is so close together; you can walk to the supermarket or the mall and it will take 10 minutes.” Recent summer heat soars to the top of his list of biggest adjustments in Michigan. “[My biggest challenge at Hope is] definitely the heat in the dorms,” Kim said. “I’m used to sleeping with AC and now I’m always sweating at night.” Despite the common
struggle of the heat, Kim has had a positive experience at Hope thus far. His parents first suggested the possibility of attending the college while he was residing in Zimbabwe. “My parents met two missionaries that sent their daughter [to Hope], so they recommended it to me,” Kim said. “What made me come here was the scholarship.”

Kim gives credit to both his international orientation advisers and his orientation advisers (OAs) for helping him adapt to a new campus and setting. “The international OAs gave us a lot of advice on how to adjust to it here and get used to everything,” Kim said. Kim is already finding ways to get involved while on campus. “I signed up for The Pull,” Kim said. “I’m looking forward to it.” In terms of academics, Kim is most looking forward to his kinesiology class this semester. He is intending to go into a Pre-PT program while at Hope. “[I am most looking forward to] getting a degree,” Kim said.

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