From Albania to Zimbabwe: IMP Interview with Soyoon Kim ’18

2 IMP Mentors 4 Scavenger Hunt Challenge; create a human monument that represents Brown 2 8 Soyoon's Group 10 IMP sky photo

Photo Credit to Brown International Mentoring Program (Top left, Bottom left and right) and Soyoon Kim ’18 (Top right)

Hi!  I’m SeungLee Lee, a sophomore hailing from Seoul, South Korea, and I am thrilled to be writing for From Albania to Zimbabwe. I will try to share all aspects of the international experience at Brown and hopefully provide a well-rounded, honest picture of what an American college experience is really like. Stay tuned!

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? (nationality, ethnicity, year, concentration, hobbies, etc, etc) 

A: Hello. I’m Soyoon Kim, a sophomore in the Class of 2018. I was born and currently reside in Seoul, South Korea and I’ve spent about half of my life living in the States (upstate New York and a suburb of Chicago to be exact). I plan to double-concentrate in Sociology and Education Studies. When I’m not dabbling in culinary arts, I enjoy taking walks/brisk jogs, frequenting galleries and museums, seeking out the newest eats in town, exploring new cities, and relaxing with friends and family.

Q: Can you tell us a little about IMP? (What do you guys do, what is the orientation about, etc, etc.)

A: Brown’s International Mentoring Program (IMP) focuses on creating a space for students who identify as international on campus. Understanding the particularities of coming to Brown as international students, we aim to build an inclusive and welcoming community for incoming students to adapt to college life and to studying abroad. In a broader sense, IMP aims to create a little home-away-from-home for international students on College Hill.

IMP organizes International Orientation (IO), a pre-orientation program geared towards international students. We also facilitate year-long mentorship through individual mentor-groups as a continuity of IO. IMP hosts a variety of social and fun activity-based events throughout the year as well to build upon and draw the IMP family closer together.

Q: How was your experience with IMP last year? 

A: Last year, I participated in IMP as a mentee so it was a very different experience from what I felt this year as a mentor. I thoroughly enjoyed being a mentee and met some of my closest friends at Brown through the program. Though it was a bit disorienting at first to jump into all of the name-games, group-activities, and events, I felt the warmth with which the mentors and coordinators alike sought to create a welcoming environment.

Q: What is your role as an IMP mentor?  

A: My role as a mentor during IO was to ensure that my mentees felt comfortable, safe, and welcomed as part of the international community at Brown and as first-years. For the year-long program, my role is as a listener, point-person, and friend (with a mentor-like sense of authority). In order to fill these roles, I schedule multiple check-in meetings for my mentees, make sure that they are directed to campus resources when necessary, and create group-bonding events throughout the school year.

Q: Why did you apply to be a mentor? 

A: One reason why I applied to mentor was that I fell in love with IMP’s mission. I loved the idea that there was a community of Brown students who aimed to facilitate the transition of international students onto Brown’s campus and create a positive, resourceful environment for students studying from abroad. When I saw that I could play a role in shaping this community, I decided to take the chance and apply. As a person, I love passing down knowledge and I wanted to impart some of my self-realized wisdoms that I had learned my freshman year (if any). On top of that, I felt that the positive experience I had with my IMP mentor inspired me to apply to this role as well.

I cannot express how happy I was upon selection. Being a mentor for IMP has made me even more grateful to the organization itself and made me feel so proud and happy to have been able to provide to the best of my ability a welcoming space for internationals. Also, shout-out to my lovely and amazing mentee group—experiencing IMP this year as a mentor wouldn’t have been half as meaningful or fun if it weren’t for you all.

Q: What does being an international student mean to you? 

A: I could list out a laundry-list of items here, but I’ll be concise. Being an international student means straddling different cultures, code-switching, and major jet-lag fatigue. It’s stressful; sometimes your passport identity or your visa-status does not fully represent where you’re coming from and that can be frustrating. It’s hard to stomach when others pin “international” students into a one-dimensional category; being “international” means so much beyond that. I feel that it is a true blessing to be able to interact with and befriend students from all corners of the earth and share cultural narratives, learn from each other, and mingle in a microcosm of diverse perspectives. To me, being international also means that I am so grateful to the community that loves, accepts, and welcomes me into its environment with open-arms.

Q: Any advice to potential pre-frosh living abroad? 

A: Dear soon-to-be-member of Brown’s international community,

Besides providing a practical Providence weather-proofing packing check-list, I would you to just come into things with an open mind and heart. Being abroad and being thousands of miles away from home can be a lot to take in at once, so I would advice pre-frosh to know that everything will be ok and that there is a supportive community of students in similar situations welcoming and willing to provide assistance. Furthermore, I would add that it’s a good idea to be prepared to take in fresh perspectives as college is the place where ideas tend to meld, mesh, clash, and lead to some good scholarly discourse (but honestly, nobody can be fully prepared for this really, but it’s the thought that counts). Most importantly, breathe, relax, and enjoy the ride that is adapting Brown University life and culture (and on a macroscopic level, American life and culture as well). Coming to a place so far from home can make it feel like you’re losing a part of yourself so feel free to reach out anytime to those who bring you back to that sense of home-ground, a home away from home. Good luck and hope this helps!

Do you have any questions, comments or concerns? Send me an email at seung_lee_lee@brown.edu and I will get back to you!

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