On the morning of January 20th, President Obama said goodbye to the White House one last time, and moments after, Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. In just his first week in office, the new, controversial president has managed to stir uproar across the nation and the world, following through on his plans to build a wall and enforce a stricter immigration policy. We interviewed Jennifer Kim, Co-president of the International Club at Boston College, to find out what one group of students at a prestigious Jesuit institute has to say about these recent events. Jennifer is currently an International studies major and will be graduating in May of this year, with a Bachelor’s degree in the Arts. As we sit down to do the interview, Jennifer looks at me with a stern facial expression. When I ask her if everything is all right, she looks at me and says, “I’m just hoping that this interview and my words can inspire other BC students and college students across the nation to rise up…”
Q: Could you tell me a little bit about how you first got involved with ICBC and how you later came to assume the role as co-President of the club?
A: I’ve travelled a lot and lived in many different countries growing up. I’d say that aspect of my life has really shaped who I am right now. I was born in Korea but grew up in New Jersey. I then went on to living in New Zealand and also Indonesia before coming to Boston College. Having lived in so many places and immersed myself in various different cultures made me realize that I have all these different identities, and made me want to explore each of them deeper. I joined ICBC during my freshman year at BC when I learned about the club at the student involvement fair. I also joined the Korean International Student Association, but quickly realized that rather than joining a club which is restricted to one culture, I wanted to be a part of a club that was more welcoming of many different cultures. So, I became a devoted member of ICBC and never looked back since! This year, I was voted to be co-Presidents with my good friend and fellow class of 2017 peer, Nicole Lee, and I happily accepted the position.
Q: As President of ICBC, what would you say are the main goals for ICBC this year? What things have you done to contribute to the success of these goals?
A: That’s a great question— One major goal that I hope to accomplish this year as President of ICBC is to, honestly, attract a larger crowd. Our club currently has about 40 committed members, and we have about 100-120 students attending the events we host, which is great, but I wish the numbers were more consistent. Imagine if all 100 students committed weekly to coming to our club meetings! We would be a huge body of students who come together to learn about different cultures, and the importance of embracing the identities and backgrounds of people around us. I believe that our campus would transform into a far more informed and educated place.
To accomplish this goal, the members on our E-board and Nicole and I have been working extremely hard to promote the club. For example, we have been hosting events called “Cultural Spotlight” which I’d say are largely successful and have been helping us gain more members over the last few months. In the past, we’ve chosen countries such as Japan and Mexico, and prepared panels with speakers who have the background and information related to the particular culture that was in spotlight that night; many of these speakers comprise of BC students who studied abroad. We once also invited the dance team, Fuego, to come and perform for the audience as well. Cultural Spotlight is always an exciting night for everyone who comes because they can ask any questions and leave having learned something new.
Q: In your own words, can you tell me what the mission of ICBC is?
A: Our mission is to be a safe environment that embraces all people no matter where they come from. I think a big part of our mission targets the exchange student crowd at BC because it is likely that for most of these students, it is their first time in America. Now knowing anyone in America and at BC can really pose a hardship to international and exchange students’ abilities to adjust to life on campus.
I also want to add that ICBC’s mission is to ignite and instill a deep passion for cultural awareness, diversity, and acceptance. We believe that one’s core values come from one’s education. The more people are informed and kept in the loop, the more they can differentiate between right and wrong. So, I think ICBC’s overarching mission is to guide all BC students into becoming educated, righteous men and women who are able to learn from and love each other.
Q: Since ICBC is a club that accepts all cultures and peoples, I have to ask this question. What has the reaction been like among club members and your E-board since the inauguration of the new President?
A: I’ve had many conversations with my E-board about President Trump and the executive actions he’s taken since being sworn into office. My E-board is, first of all, incredibly diverse; there are actually only two Americans on our E-board! Most of us do not have American citizenships so we talk about our fears of whether or not we can stay in America under the new administration. We are all here on student visas, and we are afraid that those are just not enough. As non-citizens of the U.S., we wonder what will happen to us if we ever leave the country and try to come back.
I think Trump’s election into office has definitely been a wake-up call to us at ICBC. We are now more motivated than ever to spread cultural awareness across the Boston College campus. Right now, my co-president and I are brainstorming some ideas on presenting Syria for the next Cultural Spotlight event. Syria is one of the seven Muslim-majority countries that Trump has recently issued under a travel/immigration ban. Emotions are high, and a lot of us really feel like American values and our own lives, as international students, are at stake here. We hope that students who come to this event will learn about Syria, its history, its people, and most importantly, the cruciality of the need for the U.S. to open its arms to Syrian refugees and immigrants today.
Q: The final question—who is your mentor and why?
A: My mom is definitely my mentor. She has taught me to live with a positive attitude and to approach things with a cheerful mindset. She’s the one person who always believes in me! She’s also always right. My mom keeps me going and in a world where chaos thrives. The day that I learned about the election results, I called my mom crying. I find comfort in her, which helps me stay calm, confident and focused as both a student and a leader at BC.
Over the next few months, my mom will be receiving a lot more calls of distress from me. I don’t like the things that I am reading about in the news. I will, however, use them to encourage me to continue what I am doing on campus. Educating students on all of the cultures that make up America and the student body of our very own campus, is how I will bring forth change and combat racism, prejudice, and more.