How one student is bridging cultural gaps

International student sophomore Jin Hee Kim has lived in five different countries in her life, the most recent being the United States. Liesje Powers | Multimedia Editor

By Elise Crosley | Reporter

Baylor University represents around 86 foreign countries in its student population — one of the largest being South Korea — according to Baylor Institutional Research and Testing.

Sophomore Jin Hee Kim said the United States the fifth country she’s lived in. She was born in South Korea, but her family subsequently moved to Uzbekistan. Kim lived there for 10 years and considers it her main home country.

“Although I’m Korean, I had a lot of Uzbek cultural influence around me. Most of my friends were Uzbek or Russian. I grew up in a very tight community,” Kim said.

While living there, Kim’s little sister, Hae In Kim, was born. After their time in Uzbekistan, her family then moved to Azerbaijan for work. Kim said transitioning was difficult because the cultures ended up being more different than she thought.

“I expected [the culture] to be very similar,” Kim said. “I was very sad to not stay in Uzbekistan. We had to abruptly change. When I went there, it was very different. Historically, Azerbaijan isn’t as hospitable to foreigners as Uzbekistan. Since I went to a country trying to fit my expectations on a culture that wasn’t the same, there was an emotional struggle for a while.”

Kim lived in Azerbaijan for three years then was sent to a boarding school in Germany for high school. Two of her teachers at Black Forest Academy were Baylor alumni. This opened up her mind to the idea of attending Baylor.

Kim said the transition to Baylor was made so much easier because of the great friends she made through Antioch Community Church. The nine-hour time difference between her and her family has forced her to rely on her community more, in times of struggle and celebration.

“The tightest community is my faith community. I’m involved in international student ministry at Antioch. The people there have really, in a sense, replaced my notion of family that I lack here,” Kim said.

Since Kim has been exposed to so many cultures, she said she finds her cultural identity elsewhere.

“I did have an identity crisis, asking myself ‘what is my culture?’ and ‘what is my home country?’ Ultimately, I concluded that if I really believe that my identity is found in being a child of God, all these cultural tensions within me get resolved. Even though there are so many different cultures, having a relationship with God is sort of like a Christian culture. I’ve come to realize that culture is not the most important thing because God’s culture comes and overpowers everything else,” Kim said.

A friend of Kim’s, Norman Okla. graduate Jamie Wong, described Kim’s imprint on those around her.

“Jinhee is a passionate woman of God that is fully committed to every responsibility placed before her,” Wong said. “Whether in friendship, ministry, school work or organizations, she does each thing wholeheartedly and with excellence. She loves those around her, giving generously of her time and serving in any way possible. Jinhee is a friend to many, bridging cultural gaps and bringing unity to her surroundings.”