Tae Jin “TJ” Kim from South Korea dreams of designing houses, towns, and communities.
Why did you decide to study in the USA?
I believed studying in the United States would bring a great opportunity, which would help me to achieve my long-cherished dream of becoming an architect who designs houses, towns, and communities. Though I, as an international student, needed to overcome barriers of age, generation, and language for return to campus. Studying in the United States encouraged me to accomplish my dream by adjusting myself to different cultures.
Why did you choose this particular college or university?
Portland Community College (PCC) has not only general studies but also special programs to learn professional skills, and my major — architectural design and drafting — helps me to develop knowledge which is utilized in the real job world. PCC has four campuses. I take classes at Sylvania campus in my major program, and student activities at Southeast campus. This is a very special advantage for students because students could participate in club activities, events, and classes in multiple locations.
What do you like best about your program or university?
I have worked as an international student leader during my major since completing the language program at PCC. I loved to enjoy campus activities with friends, student leaders, and staff members. Campus events which I promote with staff accomplished as successful events which represent international culture. Playing with Korean masks, learning Korean language remotely, and traditional games such as Kicking Jegi are still popular in campus events.
What do you miss most about home?
Fortunately, I have not struggled with any homesickness because my campus life with friends brings me great memories to adjust to overseas.
What was your biggest surprise about U.S. life and education?
Diversity and tolerance. I believe all students, staff, and faculties in PCC have cooperated to learn from each other, at least in my experience. All members try to understand other cultures and respect differences. Nevertheless, language issues follow every single time to an international student. It was appreciated by people who hear my opinions and understand cultural differences. I was afraid of communicating with others in English before making a decision to be an overseas student, but no big issues have happened.
What was your biggest disappointment?
I do not think I have anything to share about my struggles, but COVID-19 took away in-person activities at campus. Even in remote situations, PCC Student Engagement provides online events, and the Office of International Student Services encourages students to participate in gathering student events.
How have you handled language differences?
I learned English language skills from the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program at PCC. The program has been well organized to follow and faculties bring great teaching skills in class. I learned all the ways from how to pronounce the sound “a” and how to write academic essays, though I had learned English for so long in my country with instruction in the program. As a result, my speaking and writing skills developed even higher than I expected before leaving my country.
How have you handled finances?
PCC foundation provides scholarship opportunities, and my awards from them supports my budget for tuition. Students’ applications automatically applied for several scholarship opportunities, and I applied for a couple of more scholarships with additional essays and work samples to qualify my academic success. I have been awarded multiple scholarships which are from communities of color, architectural design major, and good qualification of GPA. It reduced my budget for tuition, and brought room for other expenses.
How have you handled adjusting to a different educational system?
Definitely, the difference in systems in the United States pushed me to have questions and answers in classes. My instructors encouraged me to participate in discussion, and conversation for topics in student government activities firmly adjusted me to build up communication with others. Stacking these experiences helps me to overcome educational differences.
What are your activities?
I worked as a student leader. My experience at Associate Students Portland Community College (ASPCC), which is a student movement, brought ideas about serving for students’ convenience, advocating students’ rights, and providing campus activities. I have learned social justice to advocate for them, program management to hold events, and practice open mind to serve them. I enjoyed playing with students in the International club; conversational meeting, which is named as Talk Time Cafe; and practicing English in ESOL club. These multiple club meetings helped me to develop English language skills as well.
How easy or difficult is making friends in the USA?
To be honest, I would not say making a friend might be easy even in my first language, but would recommend getting yourself closer to them first if you agree that nobody comes to you easily. Please attend student events, participate in class conversations, join in club meetings if you want to make friends. These activities make the barriers lower and lower.
What are your career goals? How is your U.S. education relevant to your personal goals and to the needs of your country?
I am planning to be an architect who understands values of community and diversity instead of uniformity. I learned how to understand others and communicate in multiple opinions. My academic pathway definitely has different solutions to figure out issues from the education system, which has required memorizing numbers and facts itself in my country. I believe my skills which I learned at PCC would lead me to design better dwellings, commercial areas, and neighborhoods in my country.
What is your advice to other students from your country who are considering a U.S. education?
Participation, exchange, and communication. Being involved in activities would lead you to learn about other cultures. Learning knowledge from other students and class and sharing your experience and culture would develop you in various ways. Hearing others’ voices and telling your perspectives would bring you an even wider network. To successfully study in the United States, please activate yourself with engagement, interaction, and connection.
Check Out These Schools
Start your U.S. adventure with Study in the USA
Learn About U.S. education financing, housing, and more
Nomad Credit helps international students search for and compare education loan (student loan) options, including options for students with a US cosigner or those pursuing a graduate degree. The Nomad team will personally help you with your education...
Study in the USA’s advisors can work with you to navigate the requirements to study abroad in the USA, UK, Canada, and Australia. We help you find the right school and apply.
ELSA - World's Best English Pronunciation App. Speak English like a native speaker. Get instant feedback on your speech from proprietary artificial intelligence technology. Learn more. Get a 10% discount using code: StudyUSA
Learn about American culture and education direct from our experts at Study in the USA. Read more