By Estefania Magdalena | Staff Writer

Yoonjin Kim was born in Seoul, South Korea, but her 22-year meandering journey from there to Honolulu, where she is in her second semester at Kapiʻolani Community College, has logged thousands of miles at a some distant stops before she finally settled in on Oʻahu. 

“I always dreamed since I was very young that me and my family would live in Hawaiʻi,” she said. 

When she looks back at her life, she thinks it was a long way to go, but every place she lived in was for a certain reason. Kim feels that living in Korea never felt at home because she has been traveling all over the world for many years. 

“The most painful part of traveling for me was spent so many years away from my mother,” she said. “But on the other hand, study English abroad made me grow and be more independent even though they were difficult at times.”

Kim, who goes by Jean with her friends, attended a private, English-only elementary school in Seoul when she was young. She became comfortable around foreign teachers and with the language, which became useful over the next decade. 

In her second year of middle school, at the age of 14, her parents wanted her to become more independent. They sent her to study at Christian International English School four years.

After graduating high school in 2010, she decided to attend the University of Central Oklahoma to study mass communication, but the state in the middle of the U.S. bored her, so she returned to South Korea and worked a retail job as she figured out her next step. 

“Oklahoma wasn’t exactly what I had in mind when I started studying there, but because the high school I attended had an academic agreement, it was the easiest option for me to start studying in the United States,” Kim said.

While she always dream of living in Hawaiʻi and her mother was already living in Honolulu, she decided to take a risk once again and continue her studies at Kapiʻolani Community College.

Two years later, she made it when she decided to come to Hawaiʻi. This is her second semester at KCC, and she enthusiastically confesses that her academic plan is to finish her major in Liberal Arts and then plans to transfer to the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa to obtain a Marketing degree.

“She is really energetic, active, talkative in a good way,” said classmate Lily Trang, a 21-year-old Hospitality student from Vietnam. “… Whenever I see her around, I feel she has that kind of energy I want in my life.”

Kim is grateful to have been able to travel to study English in various places and comments that this in the future would enable her to work in the company she wants: Disney. 

“I want to be part of Disney company because their mission statement is ‘We create happiness’ is the same as me,” she said. “I love to make people happy, that is what I want to.” 

Kim is happy and grateful to have the opportunity to live in Hawaiʻi. What she most enjoys being on the island is to play golf, practice water sports, and that the heat of the sun is constant all year.

“I love to live in Hawaiʻi,” she said with a laugh. “It is the best place in the world.”