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Discovering New Paths at the Daniels School of Business

Hyun Kim

Whenever people ask me where I’m from, I never know what to say. I’m a bit of a nomad — growing up, most of my childhood was spent on the islands of Guam and Saipan, but I also moved to Korea in middle school. I often felt unsure of my roots because many fond memories come from Saipan, but I spent more formative years in Korea. While my mom tried to connect me to my Korean roots, I felt pulled between my life in the islands and Korea.

Hyun with his friends at Purdue.
Purdue has made it possible to build an amazing community of friends, something I dreamed about after I visited my sister here.

Guam and Saipan are very diverse, but the dominant culture is American, so my siblings and I grew up watching Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon. I even had an American accent and aspired to attend college in the States after graduating high school, just like I’d seen on TV!

As I navigated high school in Korea, life became a balancing act. My family wasn’t wealthy, and I lived in a single-parent household, but we made it work. By the time I was 15, I was juggling full-time jobs, studying for the SAT, and trying to maintain a social life. Despite my hard work to build up my resume and achieve high test scores, the financial burden of college loomed over me. I didn’t want to burden my mom with loans, and my twin brother and I were the only ones in our family without U.S. citizenship. The dream of attending college in America felt like a distant mirage.

As I considered post-high school plans in Korea, my older sister pursued her education at Purdue University. Being an American citizen and a member of the National Guard, she secured a full ride on campus. Despite my doubts about college, her journey began to influence my perspective, especially when she invited my twin brother and me to join her in West Lafayette and immerse ourselves in life at Purdue.

My visit to Purdue was my first time stepping foot in mainland America. I never realized how big the world could be, especially driving through vast miles of cornfields and towns. I felt tears rush down my cheeks as we drove towards campus. I loved the natural beauty but felt sure I’d never experience it like my sister.

Hyun and his team taking a photo. Picture of Hyun participating at a conference.
As an active Boilermaker, I’ve participated in conferences and met Mitch Daniels, former president of the university.

Visiting West Lafayette was fantastic. I had a blast tagging along with my sister to her classes, wandering around campus, and sampling the tasty offerings at on-campus eateries. As my time in West Lafayette drew to a close, I took a stroll around campus on a beautiful, sunny day. Everywhere I looked, I saw a diverse mix of students enjoying each other's company and soaking up the atmosphere. It felt like I was living in a scene straight out of a college movie, where everyone was smiling and having the time of their lives.

Thanks to my sister's generosity, my brother and I explored a variety of universities across the country, but none of them could quite capture Purdue’s magic. Surrounded by students passionate about making a positive impact, I felt like I belonged at Purdue.

As my time in the States wrapped up and I prepared to head back to Korea, I knew I had to make it to Purdue. Sure, I knew that money would be tight, and I'd have to put in some serious work. But when I thought about what I really wanted out of life, I couldn't shake off the warmth and joy I felt being on campus. It just left too big of an impression on me to ignore, no matter what challenges lay ahead.

I decided to give college my best shot and even wrote my Common Application during my time at Purdue. I wrote about how transformative the experience had been and how it totally shifted my expectations for what was possible as an international student. While I received acceptance letters from many great colleges across the country, I always knew my home would be at Purdue. After months of hard work in the classroom and saving money, I was admitted to Purdue and decided to dive in as a student the following fall!

Photo of Hyun and his Boiler Ambassador friends on the Purdue diving platform.
I’ve shared many unique aspects of Purdue with my friends at Boiler Ambassadors — even from our state-of-the-art diving platforms!

When I got to campus, it became evident that I needed to find a way to support myself financially. Without any assistance from my family, I aimed to merge my passions with a stable source of income. About six months before starting at Purdue, I began exploring photography, captivated by its ability to preserve memories. At Purdue, I initiated free photo shoots for friends to establish my reputation. Then I started to make money off the shoots, which I reinvested into upgrading my camera gear. As my skills and equipment advanced, so did my business. What’s more, I started to apply my studies at the business school in subjects like networking and negotiations to my photography venture. I had to be inventive in every sense, but by semester's end, the earnings covered a significant portion of my expenses, allowing me to concentrate more on academics and campus involvement.

As my photography business eased some financial pressure, I shifted my focus to honing my professional skills. Upon arriving at Purdue, I noticed that other universities boasted large social media followings, featuring student spokespeople showcasing its unique offerings. However, Purdue seemed to need more visibility, and I was eager to share our incredible campus life with others just as I had experienced it.

Photo of Hyun with Larsen Leaders Academy team.
Getting involved within the Daniels School has allowed me to grow deep relationships and conquer new challenges. Pictured is our leadership team for the Larsen Leaders Academy, where I serve as vice president of marketing!

That's when I stumbled upon Boiler Ambassadors — a group of students creatively illustrating what it means to be a Boilermaker, primarily aimed at prospective students. When I received an email about the ambassadors program, I saw it as the perfect fit and eagerly applied. I was determined to do whatever I could to shine a spotlight on Purdue.

From the start, I dove into creating social media videos highlighting Purdue as a vibrant and relatable community. As I became more involved, I transitioned into acting in these videos, adding a personal touch to the content. It was gratifying to see people gaining a deeper understanding of Purdue through the eyes of current students, presented in fun and engaging ways!

Even though I’ve had a lot of success transitioning to Purdue, I’m still navigating challenges. Being an international student with financial constraints makes balancing school with other priorities tough. Juggling on-campus activities, classes and jobs requires me to constantly adjust my schedule based on urgent needs, sometimes resulting in setbacks in my coursework. While I hold myself to high standards, I'm learning to be more forgiving and embrace learning from my mistakes. I acknowledge that perfection isn't realistic, yet I also recognize the privilege of being here, striving to view every aspect of my life at Purdue as an opportunity for personal growth.

My journey at Purdue has been a wild ride so far, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. While I might not know exactly what the future holds, my experiences here have prepared me to make a positive impact wherever I go.

Hyun Kim Headshot

Hyun Kim is a sophomore marketing major from South Korea. As a student at Purdue, Hyun serves as the Executive Senior Team Leader for Boiler Ambassadors, Vice President of Marketing for Larsen Leaders Academy, and a council member for the Daniels School of Business Council. Hyun is also a featured member of the Daniels “20 Under 20” list for Spring 2024 and an active member of Sigma Nu Fraternity and the Epic Movement.

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