Hey again! Hope your week has been going well, and what better way to end it than reading the interview of our fabulous second APA Leader, Nara Kim!! Nara is currently the President of Haneulsori, a part of Tuesday Night Cafe and much more! Learn more about her and how passionate about and involved she is in the APA community in the interview below:
What does being APA mean to you? As someone who’s always fascinated by languages and words, I try my best to be very intentional with my words. To me, being APA is a conscious decision to describe myself, as I feel it encapsulates my experience with race and identity.
I wasn’t born in Korea, I’ve really only been there for a total of 10 days (it was a whirlwind trip of meeting 40+ relatives), and I only have the fuzziest idea of the geography of Korea. Over there, I would be seen as an American. But I also find it incorrect to label myself as an American. Being an APA embodies growing up in a way that is neither Asian nor American.
It’s growing up with immigrant parents, in a country that constantly likes to tell you that this is not your home. It’s growing up being pushed to aspire for the American Dream, but still holding onto the traditions of another home. It’s growing up trying to reconcile the feelings of resentment against the pressure to succeed in school, but appreciating and feeling unworthy of the sheer amount of sacrifices my parents have made, and continue to make, on my behalf.
Being APA allows for me to not have to strain for one side. I feel like I belong, not just because I feel like it describes me, but because it gives me a community. It’s a community that understands, that welcomes, and that works to give back. It’s the community that gave me a home when I transferred to this school, and gave me the space to think and grow.
Explain in detail your involvement in the Asian Pacific American community on and off campus. I am most actively involved in Haneulsori, the Korean Traditional Drumming club, as it’s President. I was also apart of CIRCLE last semester as a TA, while having been a participant the previous year. (#thursday!) Outside of campus, I am apart of staff for Tuesday Night Project in their flagship program, Tuesday Night Cafe as their assistant sound engineer/stage hand. I am also the youth organizing intern for the Korean Resource Center in LA.
What advice do you have for aspiring APA leaders? Leaders don’t all look the same, so please don’t ever believe that you aren’t capable of creating change or of doing anything. I still have a bad habit sometimes of comparing myself to others and feeling inadequate at not being able to do the same. But in the end, I am not them. And you are not me. This idea that leaders are made of cookie cutter shapes is so detrimental, especially for people who feel like leadership is not cut out for them. Don’t let boxes and labels restrict you from doing anything. Leadership isn’t always a speech in front of thousands of people, or being in charge of a team of people. Sometimes it’s just that conscious step to do something; it can be a conversation, a greeting, or even a smile.
Welcome discomfort. That can be facing your fear of making friends, actually listening to opinions that differ from yours, or having something you’ve believed your entire life be proved wrong. You’ll never be able to go anywhere if you just stay in your comfort zone. See it as a challenge, or a chance to grow. The world is full of so many different things, and whether they are good or bad, they’ll contribute to expanding your horizons and helping you develop as a person.
Please, please, please take care of yourself. It’s so easy to burn yourself out when you are constantly putting yourself out there for others. I had such a horrible fall semester this year because I ignored taking care of myself until it was too late. Stopping to help yourself, or reaching out for help, is an act of strength in itself. Understand that you deserve and absolutely need your own TLC sometimes.
Be realistic about your capacity (a 13 hr day with only one 30 minute break to eat is not smart). Get some sleep (no, 1-4 hours does not count). Try to eat 3 meals a day(no, one danish does not count as a meal). Take a shower (feeling clean will do wonders). Allow yourself a breather (the world won’t fall apart).
Why is it significant to learn about our heritage? Know history, know self. No history, no self.
I think some of my favorite classes in college were history classes, especially ones that shed let on the history of people of color. I took an Asian American History class as well as American Studies history class that focused on the stories of the minorities within US history, and honestly they were some of the best classes that I took in my college career. The sheer amount of POC history that is erased within US history is mind-boggling. It’s easy for people to call us foreigners when your centuries long presence in a country is constantly being erased. You learn about the struggles, as well as the victories of folks and wonder why they were never found to be worthy of being told. It sheds light on why people may have immigrated, why some people are where they are, and why some people are the way they are. By learning about how society was historically constructed, it allows for you to see it critically, but also empowers you to tell your own story.
Tell us about one of your most memorable moments at USC. A big worry for my officers - members who have been in Haneulsori their entire college career - and I is about the state of Haneulsori after we graduate. Out of 11 of us, 7 of us are graduating, leaving only 4 members to take on the club.
As people who understand the difficulties of running the club and the work to be put in, we were pretty anxious and kind of cynical. But I reached out to our four younger kids, asking them if they were interested in pairing up with an officer in order to learn about what they were doing so they could learn how to run the club next year.
I was honestly expecting a lukewarm response, mainly because all of our members are just so busy, but they all responded with so much enthusiasm. Their main priority was to keep the club alive, and so they were eager to learn and take on more responsibilities.
I literally just sat there tearing up and was just an emotional mess with my officers who I was rapidly reporting to during the conversation. It was so validating for us who had put in so much work to keep this club going, and to see that we had kids that were so passionate about it.
I found a family here at USC with Haneulsori, and it was so heart-warming to know that they wanted to keep that going.
What motivates and inspires you?
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”
I literally read those words hundreds of times because it was the signature of the email of the philanthropy club that I was apart of for 5 years. If there’s anything that I took away from years in the club, was that people are my source of inspiration. You can tell me all the shitty things in the world that are happening, but I fully believe in the future and the accomplishments that we’re capable of. When I see all the wonderful work that’s being done to combat the negativity in the world, it only inspires me to do my part. People are researching the cure for cancer, fighting to make sure everyone is able to afford a home, or inspiring little kids to change the world. In the end, there’s an effort on all different ends to make the world a better place. I will always be inspired by people, in our capacity and our drive to make a change.
If you could meet anyone from the past, the present, or the future, who would you want to meet and why? I would want to meet my dad’s mother. She passed away after my parents immigrated to America in the nineties, and to this day, he hasn’t been able to visit her grave. He grew up with 5 brothers, and always tells me stories about her, like her cooking, and raising 5 boys as a single mother. I’d want to meet her and get to know what kind of person she was, and to exchange stories about my dad.
Anything else before we close? To APASA, thank you for all your hard work this year and all the amazing programs that you guys put on! You guys do so much for all the member organizations as well as this school! You guys inspire me *:･ﾟ✧
To everyone who nominated me, I’m so honored and humbled, so thank you so much for believing in me to be an APA leader!
To my HNSR family, Thank you for giving me a family when I was feeling lonely at a new school. I’m so proud when I see how hard you guys work, both in the club and in your own lives. Thank you for the support and the love, and for the weird 50+ messages to come home to. We are truly a weird, dysfunctional family. I love you kids <3
To my spicy ate and my ading, Thank you for all the love, support, and sass. I can’t imagine my life without you guys.
To Sally, I’m so glad we’ve been able to be apart of each other lives for so long. Thank you for always being my personal cheerleader and always supporting me.
To Alex, You were my first close friend at USC, so thank you for your friendship, love, support, and general photo harassment.
Ara, I wouldn’t have made it through my move to USC without you. You are a constant pillar of support and wisdom, and I am constantly inspired by all that you do. I would give the world to you. So I will promise not to be messy at home.
To my shiba, you make me want to be better. thank you.
To my mom and dad, the ones who will shower me with so much unconditional love, even if it’s not always communicated well. thank you for everything you’ve done, and for making me who I am today.
Thanks so much to Nara for being awesome and letting us interview you! We are so lucky to have you so involved in the APA community!
By the way, because of the overwhelming amount of support and nominations we received we will now have a total of eight APA Leaders :D! So there are still six more APA Leaders to be chosen! So, if you know any potential APA Leaders, nominate them by next Friday here: http://goo.gl/forms/bTCTJhz9Rx