By Molly Englund
Seowon Kim has been transformed by education—twice. When she was a high school student in Seoul, Kim and her classmates were obsessed with getting into South Korea’s top universities. But once Kim began her first year at Ewha Womans University, she realized there were factors she hadn’t considered that can make a school excellent.
Kim had been very timid when she started college. But she was surrounded by women who were the opposite. “They are very independent and ambitious women,” Kim says. As a political science major, she eventually learned leadership skills and how to speak out and talk about herself. Ewha Womans University also has a gender and women’s studies department, which is very unusual for Korean colleges. “I’ve learned a lot from those courses,” says Kim. “I was transformed a lot at the university.”
Ewha also had a robust study abroad program, which was appealing to Kim. “I was interested in English and American culture as I grew up,” she says. Fascinated by East Coast culture in particular, she knew she wanted to study at a college in the region. When she heard that Goucher College had a study abroad mandate, she knew she’d found the right place for her. “I think Goucher’s values are very similar to my thinking,” Kim says.
In fact, John Franklin Goucher donated to Ewha Womans University when it was still quite small, and the two institutions have long enjoyed a special relationship, something Kim was surprised to discover when she came to Baltimore.
At Goucher, Kim’s second transformation began. “I’m very grateful that I’m in a more arty, very deep society at Goucher,” she says. Korean society is very homogeneous, but as a Korean person at Goucher, Kim now often finds herself in the racial minority. “It’s making me think differently,” she says, “and I think that’s really important and will influence me for a very long time.”
Kim, who is a junior, loves that Goucher’s small classes allow the students to work closely and communicate easily with professors. At home, a course might have 100 students. “It’s overwhelming and hard to communicate,” she says. “But here, I’m taking classes that help me realize what I’m interested in and how I can develop that interest.”
One of her favorite classes she’s taking this semester is about organized interests in American politics. “That is new for me, because we don’t have many interest groups in our political society,” Kim says. As part of the course, Kim read Prisms of the People, which was co-authored by Hahrie Han, a Korean American professor at Johns Hopkins University. “I’ve been very inspired by her career,” she says,” not only the content of the books, but also the author’s background really inspired me.”
Kim is currently considering internship opportunities that would keep her in the U.S. for the summer. Her next transformation is out there, waiting for her.
(Photo at top): Image of Ewha Womans University in Seoul