Kevin is a senior at Hawaii Pacific University, majoring in International Relations with a focus on North/South Korea. He is currently on full scholarship on study abroad in South Korea. When he returns to HPU in a few weeks, he’ll continue at his previous job at the HPU study abroad office as an assistant to the Director. He speaks Arabic, Korean, Chinese and Filipino. Once his BA is complete, he plans to take a year to travel and connect with the many friends he has made on various trips abroad while also apply to graduate school. He intends to pursue a Masters in Global Governance or International Relations and Diplomacy.
Kevin joined OWN-Hawaii when he was a Sophomore at James Campbell Highschool. At the time, he was studying Chinese and had felt pulled towards international studies and diplomacy as his future career path. He had been watching the Arab Spring unfold and wanted to have a greater understanding of the culture and language. OWN-Hawaii was the door way to fluency in another language as well as leadership training. For two years, Kevin studied Arabic and Chinese simultaneously, two of the most difficult languages to learn.
In our interview, Kevin said “every experience with OWN is a good memory” but a few points stood out, including his first trip to the Get Global Conference in Seattle. It was Kevin’s first time on the mainland. Considering himself an introvert, Kevin surprised himself by facilitating a workshop on stage in a conference hall with a large audience. His peers in OWN-Hawaii and Seattle gave him the confidence and support he needed.
Through OWN-Hawaii, Kevin was award a scholarship to study abroad in Morocco for three weeks. Today he keeps up with his Arabic by sending his host family small care packages and letters in Arabic. While he wants to go back to Morocco, calling his time there “a memorable, once in a lifetime experience” he is eager to see as much of the world as possible.
I am a true Seattleite by birth. Anyone in this room self-identify as long-term Seattleites? Let me see a raise of hands.
To give you a bit of a background of the person standing in front of you today. I grew up just around the corner from what was formerly known as the Safeco building, now dubbed UW Tower on 45th.
Picturing it in your mind, I spent a good amount of my childhood in a studio apartment with a family of four in aging apartment.
With that, the University of Washington fountain was my go-to stomping grounds. Ravenna park was a local favorite when I could urge my Korean mother to muster the time or energy to take me. It was certainly no paradise, but not an impossible way to live. We managed. Growing up, I still remember it was a big deal when we moved into a one bedroom when I was 8 or so, though there wasn’t a door to separate it from what we called the living room.
Yet as the years when on, the inevitable hit. My sister and I got older and puberty onset. In that small one bedroom, it got crowded at home (to say the least).
By high school, I started wearing all black. I listened solely to heavy metal and would stay out late like most teenagers.
Perhaps unlike other teenagers, I had played violin in several orchestras for about seven years and hoped to compete nationally. Though, I could never afford those trips and quickly started losing interest in opportunities to travel or compete because I was deterred by the high costs. This indifference soon spread to college aspirations – it simply seemed too expensive and out of reach for someone like me.
So during these formative teenage years, while spending too much time on the internet like many of those at that age, I stumbled across an advertisement for OneWorld Now! on a fellow myspace or facebook page – whatever we were using at that time.
‘Study abroad!’ the picture beckoned. Morocco or China – images of these exotic and completely unknown spaces swept me. And like my orchestra trips, I knew that I wanted to go too. And even if I couldn’t afford it now I believed that there would be a way, somewhere, somehow to go.
I saw there were scholarships available, and for the first time I thought to myself that maybe, just maybe with enough work that I would be able to go too.
And when I joined the program, where many others would see a nuisance, an anxious and unfocused teenager donning all black clothing, OWN saw potential. The OWN staff saw drive, and at the time they must have known this even more than I did. Through the leadership program, they were able to make me believe that I had worth. That my ideas were worth sharing – over the course of one year, they were able to channel this energy into someone who became introspective, who became comfortable taking risks, and they redirected that drive into a self-sustaining graduate.
Beyond that, I became part of the OWN family. Many of us in the OWN program were working students through high school (saving money here and there I worked 20 hours a week since my 16th birthday), and most of us were the children of immigrants. We had little knowledge of how to navigate the intricacies of higher education, and few of us were encouraged to pursue it outside of the support of OWN.
And upon graduation from year one of the OWN program, I was afforded the opportunity to study abroad in Morocco. After the summer of 2008, when I left Rabat, I actually cut off most of my hair and wore color for the first time in years – worn jeans, a green shirt and white cardigan.
And that’s pretty illustrative of my transformation following that experience in Morocco. The trust that I had in myself and my ability to work towards achievable goals by securing that first scholarship became even more evident. With the mentorship I received from the program on how to prepare for what they don’t teach youth in the traditional classroom: national testing and applications to universities, I was enabled to do what may have been otherwise impossible. When I was accepted to the University of Washington, seeing yet another success, my goals grew larger.
And I set new goals.
First, I wanted to get a degree – instead, I’ve gone on to obtain two. A BA in International Studies at the University of Washington (go huskies), and an MA in International Energy Policy from Sciences Po in France.
Second, I wanted to return to the Middle East – I have lived in the Middle East for more than 16 months total.
Third, since I graduated from the OWN program in 2008, I wanted to go to DC – I have since spent more than a year in the DC area.
And this wide array of incredible experiences has now led me to my dream job, which I started only two months ago. I now work for the Department of Energy right here on Seattle working on next generation technologies. That all started with one opportunity right here in our own backyard.
Thank you immensely OneWorld Now! and thank you all for being here today.