Critical Language Scholarship Program | Kathy Kim
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Kathy Kim

Why did you want to study your CLS tar­get language?
One of my aca­d­e­m­ic focus­es lies in the research and analy­sis of the con­flict in the Kore­as. In con­sid­er­a­tion of dif­fer­ing per­spec­tives, I found it dif­fi­cult to assess Kore­an sen­ti­ments by only read­ing news writ­ten in Eng­lish by West­ern news media. Through my attempts toward flu­en­cy in Kore­an, I want­ed to also reach a lev­el of aca­d­e­m­ic dis­cus­sion on issues rang­ing from Kore­an pol­i­tics to North Kore­an defec­tor pop­u­la­tions in Asia.

Also, as a her­itage speak­er and Kore­an Amer­i­can, it was impor­tant for me to also con­nect with the Kore­an lan­guage on a per­son­al note. Lan­guage acqui­si­tion stim­u­lates empa­thy and cul­tur­al under­stand­ing. Many times I encoun­tered cul­tur­al bar­ri­ers and mis­un­der­stand­ings from poor translation. 

What are your edu­ca­tion­al and/​or pro­fes­sion­al goals?
Cur­rent­ly, I study Peace, Glob­al Secu­ri­ty, and Con­flict res­o­lu­tion in Amer­i­can Uni­ver­si­ty’s School of Inter­na­tion­al Ser­vice. I am plan­ning on pur­su­ing an MA in Pub­lic Pol­i­cy and Inter­na­tion­al Affairs. Because of my pas­sion for migra­tion stud­ies, I aspire to work with an inter­na­tion­al orga­ni­za­tion such as the IOM, ILO, UNHRC, or State Depart­men­t’s Bureau of Pop­u­la­tion, Refugees, and Migration.

How do you plan to use your tar­get lan­guage in the future?
In the future, I plan to use Kore­an when work­ing with North Kore­an defec­tors and facil­i­tat­ing inter­cul­tur­al dia­logues or devel­op­ment projects. More­over, I also per­son­al­ly use Kore­an with fam­i­ly and friends.

How did par­tic­i­pa­tion in the CLS Pro­gram affect your life?
The CLS Pro­gram has influ­enced me heav­i­ly in all aspects – per­son­al­ly, aca­d­e­m­i­cal­ly, and pro­fes­sion­al­ly. Dur­ing the pro­gram, the CLS stu­dents had sev­er­al oppor­tu­ni­ties to bond with North Kore­an defec­tors from the Set­Net school, a socio-eco­nom­ic inte­gra­tion pro­gram. I also had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to engage with oth­er CLS par­tic­i­pants who are inter­est­ed in tying Kore­an cul­ture, pol­i­tics, or lan­guage into their diverse fields of study. Addi­tion­al­ly, it had been sev­en years since I last met with many fam­i­ly mem­bers in South Korea, and this was a very heart­felt and ful­fill­ing experience.

What was your favorite part about being in your host country?
Even though I grew up speak­ing Kore­an with fam­i­ly and friends, speak­ing the lan­guage in the cul­ture and envi­ron­ment makes the expe­ri­ence are so unique. I just enjoyed being in the coun­try, hav­ing access to all the bap” (rice) and ban­chan” (side dish­es) that I want­ed, and recon­nect­ing with my roots. 

What did you learn about your host coun­try that you did­n’t know before?
I learned about the dif­fer­ent polit­i­cal par­ties in South Korea and the dis­sent­ing opin­ions over polit­i­cal lead­ers. Also, as a Kore­an Amer­i­can with my own mis­con­cep­tions of gen­der roles in South Korea, I was sur­prised to see the cul­tur­al­ly chang­ing perceptions.

Please share a short sto­ry about your CLS Pro­gram experience.
Dur­ing the CLS pro­gram, I had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to par­tic­i­pate in a week­long home­s­tay with a Kore­an fam­i­ly. Both host par­ents were pub­lic ser­vants, a fire­fight­er and a school­teacher, and had three chil­dren. After class­es, I would play with the kids and answer their ques­tions about me and my life in the US. I espe­cial­ly have fond mem­o­ries of speak­ing with my host par­ents. As young 38 year olds, they grew up in a dif­fer­ent gen­er­a­tion than my own par­ents and demon­strat­ed the chang­ing social envi­ron­ment in South Korea. It was a cross-cul­tur­al exchange in the purest of forms, between me as a Kore­an Amer­i­can explor­ing the Kore­an” iden­ti­ty and them as young Kore­an par­ents reflect­ing on my bicul­tur­al iden­ti­ty. The pro­gram’s aca­d­e­m­ic rig­or in tan­dem with the home­s­tay com­po­nent gave me and many of the oth­er stu­dents great oppor­tu­ni­ties to devel­op rela­tion­ships and pur­sue expe­ri­en­tial learn­ing, by apply­ing lessons learned in the class­room to real world settings. 

What is your favorite tar­get lan­guage word or phrase, and what does it mean in English?
길고 짧은 것은 대어 보아야 안다. 
Eng­lish Equiv­a­lent of the Proverb: You will nev­er know until you try.

What is a must see or must try in your host city or country?
South Korea has cities that cap­ture the coun­try’s unique land­scape, inte­grat­ing urban build­ings amidst all the nature. I rec­om­mend trav­el­ing to the south­ern area of Daegu and Pusan. If time per­mits, Jeju Island is a must see!

What advice would you give prospec­tive appli­cants, par­tic­i­pants on the pro­gram, and/​or recent CLS alumni?
I would tell par­tic­i­pants to make three real­is­tic goals before the start of the pro­gram and let them stand as guides to the sum­mer. With only eight weeks of inten­sive lan­guage immer­sion, it is essen­tial to max­i­mize your focus on the aspects of the Kore­an lan­guage that mat­ter to you the most, whether it be gram­mar, lan­guage con­ver­sa­tion, or cer­tain types of vocab­u­lary. The pro­gram is intense and has many dif­fer­ent activ­i­ties. Look­ing back, I am grate­ful to have been exposed to so many dif­fer­ent types of expe­ri­ences from cook­ing Kore­an food to vis­it­ing the Pan­munjom zone.

Per­son­al background
I am orig­i­nal­ly from Mari­et­ta, Geor­gia, and I am the youngest of three daugh­ters. As a Junior study­ing Inter­na­tion­al Rela­tions at Amer­i­can Uni­ver­si­ty in D.C., I have been moti­vat­ed to pur­sue lan­guage acqui­si­tion and trav­el to under­stand not only dif­fer­ent cul­tures but my own cul­ture, more. Vol­un­teer­ing with var­i­ous orga­ni­za­tions that focus on low­er socio-eco­nom­ic groups to minori­ties taught me the impor­tance of invest­ing in the growth of sur­round­ing com­mu­ni­ties. Some­times this help does not trans­late with­out an under­stand­ing of the tar­get com­mu­ni­ty’s cul­ture and lan­guage. As the daugh­ter of immi­grants, I under­stand these chal­lenges and hope to cre­ate a bet­ter envi­ron­ment for oth­ers in the US and beyond.

Alumni Profiles

Kathy Kim
Kathy Kim
Korean 2014
Wonju, South Korea

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Posted Date

April 27, 2015