What activities were you involved in while a student, both within the RC and elsewhere on campus?
Residence Education (ResStaff), Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP), East Quad Hall Council
What are some highlights of your career - or side projects - that you’re most proud of?
When COVID19 first started, I was working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in D.C. Due to the pandemic, our team's focus shifted to helping asylum seekers detained in the US to get parole/bond or apply for Habeas Corpus - whichever way could help them be released from the crowded detention centers safely and fastest. However the release of most of the detainees seemed nearly impossible. By June, our entire team was mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted. So I will always remember this one gentleman who called me in June to tell us that he was finally being released and returning to his elderly ill father. I had been the point person to work with him for a few months, and his case was especially dear to me because I was unable to be physically with my sister when she was extremely ill a few years ago... (which frankly shattered me, and I would not have been able to survive through without Charlie Murphy & Hank Greenspan from RC, so a quick shout out here!) But his joyful call reminded me that our team's tireless efforts had not been wasted. Even if it meant only one released out of hundreds of those our team was advocating for, that one victory meant the world to him and his family. Definitely one of the proudest moments of my life to this day.
What are you doing lately that you’re passionate about?
Lately, as in for the past few years, my passion has been working for immigrant, refugees, and asylum seekers rights, especially children. A couple of months ago, I moved to Uganda to begin working for the Ministry of Defense at the Embassy of the Republic of Korea. As the largest refugee hosting country in Africa, Uganda hosts refugees from DR Congo, South Sudan, etc. Although our office does not work directly with refugees, we frequently monitor the flow and work closely with the UN Peacekeeping Operations in South Sudan as a Korean contingent military unit is part of the mission. I have previously worked with refugees in the United States, so I am hoping that now I can get a different and more field focused experience both through work and outside volunteer activities. Oh and picked up boxing my junior year in Michigan for discipline, strength, and fun. I am grateful to say I am still boxing in Uganda and is one my personal passions :)
What about it makes you so passionate? What is the underlying reason or cause you’re doing what you’re doing?
For half of my life, I have lived in Korea and the other half in the States, and in between I moved from France to Morocco to Canada [and now Uganda]. Going back and forth frequently meant I belonged everywhere and nowhere. The longing for a home is a shared feeling while simultaneously a huge burden for any foreigners. For most international students, seeking anything other than a prestigious career means jeopardizing everything you have established as a foreigner, which for me turned out to be a daunting whole half of my existence. The root of my passion for helping asylum seeking children is deeper than mere social justice. My passion does not only stem from my possible guilt and responsibility for those who are my brothers and sisters of Casa Foreigners - though two opposite, undeniably different sides of the same coin of the American dream, both not yet “American” and both still “dreamers”. Two very distinct groups, speaking the same language of yearning for a comfortable home to call “my-own”, and longing for that day of freedom to be able to decide to thrive and not simply survive. In the limited ways that I am able to, I am passionate to help them find a home. Perhaps what I really want is to bring some along with me in the midst of my own search for that home – so one less person has to worry about the efforts of half of their existence becoming nullified.
How does something you did in the RC relate to this?
The above three paragraphs are nearly verbatim from my RCHUMS 325 project. RCCORE100 "Saving the World with Story" with Professor Laura Thomas was my first class ever at the University of Michigan, and it would not be an exaggeration to say that this class probably changed my life. The stories, discussions, and both technical and creative writing assignments from the class led me to wonder what other stories were being untold and need to be addressed. Throughout my time at UofM, I took classes with MENA, PitE, ALC, IGR, etc. to find the stories themselves, while continuing to take RCHUMS Creative Writing classes to learn how to tell these stories. Throughout an incredibly difficult final semester at UofM, the RCHUMS 325 creative writing project and Professor Laura (again major shout out here!) led me to tell my own story and guided me to find the hidden yet such personal reason why out of all the stories I have heard, the one I wanted to share and advocate for the most were those about immigrants, foreigners, those who gave up their home for a possible better future. RC classes led me to wonder, search, and finally find the story I want to commit my life to.
If you could have dinner with anyone, fictional or real, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Still alive but his past- my grandfather in his 20s/30s. My grandfather has been a role model figure in my life for his compassion, wisdom, and humility. Growing up, I did not realize how successful of an entrepreneur he was ... no one could tell by his lifestyle and attitude. And it was only a few years ago when I heard a story about his eldest daughter being accidentally murdered while he was the target ... once again no one could tell by his gentle and generous spirit. As an eighty-some year old man, he still wakes up at 4am, heads to the gym, then to the market for fresh food, has breakfast, and onto his work. I would love to meet him in his 20s/30s and learn how he navigated through that portion of adulthood.. :)
What’s your favorite food to make, and why?
Ahhh Tiramisu! :) Granted, I have made it only once in my entire life, the process and the recipient made the cake special. I made it in the small East Quad kitchen as a surprise congratulatory cake for my dear friend. Did you know that if you stir the egg whites long enough they become foamy? You have to stir it for a good while so most use a mixer... unfortunately the EQ kitchen didn't have a mixer then (do you have it now?), so I mixed it with a fork, and my arms hated me every moment while stirring. Although it was finals season and after a late party night, I loved every moment of making that tiramisu at 2/3am in EQ kitchen :)