Grinnell student able to return home in time for birthday cake

March 26, 2020 — Kevin Kim ’22 decided to attend Grinnell College because he believes a liberal arts education is essential to understanding humanitarian values in the computing world.

“By expanding my understanding of human culture through courses in history and social science, I believe it is helping me to think creatively on ways to solve problems relevant to our humanity,” he says.

The second-year computer science major is grateful for the humanity demonstrated by Grinnellians, who helped him return to Korea on his 22nd birthday.

Kevin Kim '22
   Kevin Kim ’22

Kim’s original plan for spring break was to take part in an externship in New York City with Hannah Cohn ’15, a technological engineer at Rent the Runway. With the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus, the externship was cancelled and Kim had to quickly decide whether to return home to Korea or apply for an exception to stay on campus.

“I decided to head home since Korea was slowly closing its border to people from foreign countries due to the coronavirus, and the only way I could be with my family safely during the summer was to go home as fast as possible,” he says. “The College was very helpful in getting me back by booking me on a plane.”

But before his flight home on March 18, Kim had to prepare for an internship interview with a Korean software company. Amid packing up and saying his goodbyes, he tried to stay focused on the interview, which occurred at midnight because of the 14-hour time difference.

Like many Grinnell international students, Kim is paired with a local family participating in the Grinnell College Friends of International Students. The program, often abbreviated as FIS, strives to build student/community host friendships across cultures, generations, and communities.

Kim’s host mom is Robin Marcinik, broker and owner of Grinnell Realty. She invited Kim for a birthday dinner before he departed Grinnell. She also offered him a place to stay until his flight and provided storage for his belongings.

“I was able to have wonderful birthday dinner with her family,” Kim says.

Kevin Kim's dog, Kong
   Kevin Kim's dog, Kong.

Most of Kim’s birthday was spent on the airplane. He used the time to finish a book about Harvard business school networking skills. Upon his arrival in Seoul, he relished being back with his family and his two puppies, Kong and Boni, a Maltese and a poodle.

“I was still able to celebrate my birthday cake with my family on the day I arrived home,” Kim says. “It was a very welcoming moment.”

While not being able to continue in-person classes at Grinnell is disappointing, Kim is prepared to make the best of it.

“I believe I will have more time for myself since I will be alone most of the time during the virus season,” he says. “I look forward to reading more books and preparing for my internship.”

—by Jeremy Shapiro

For your information:

Learn more about the Grinnell College Friends of International Students program.

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