"I appreciate having that experience to blend in, to see what it would be like to be there and not have this expectation where I'm setting myself up as a tourist, and allowing for a different type of interaction with people there." (Kevin, Episode 27)
We made it! This is the final episode of Young, Gifted and Abroad in 2018 (will be back on January 15th)! What better way than to end this year with yet another person who was referred to me by previous guest and dear friend of the show, Irene Li (episode 4). So glad to have made Kevin Chung's acquaintance for this last interview of the year!
During his sophomore year at the University of Michigan, Kevin was accepted into the university's Graham Sustainability Scholars program, which includes a scholarship for field experiences. Scholars in this program tend to do their sustainability-related field experiences abroad, which was great for Kevin since he was an international studies student. He had traveled to other countries previously while in high school (France) and in college (Guatemala), but he felt he'd be doing a disservice to the strong curiosity about the world that he had if he didn't try to study abroad if possible.
Coincidentally, when looking for programs that aligned with his interests and also fit academic requirements, Copenhagen, Denmark repeatedly came up. Due to its city plan, transportation system (Kevin noted it as being one of the bike capitals of the world), and Denmark's track record of advancing and implementing sustainability-related research, Copenhagen seemed to be a unique place that would offer an impressive intersection of Kevin's preferred fields of study. So Kevin went through the Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS) and spent six weeks in Copenhagen, during which time he took a course on urban design/planning and a course on renewable energy systems.
Kevin was in quite the fascinating position, seeing as how exploring Copenhagen fed directly into his studies, and vice-versa. He would be in class or on field visits learning about what makes a modern city livable and enjoyable, and then during his free time he'd be out doing what, exactly? Enjoying the city! Besides familiarizing himself with Copenhagen and its surprising abundance of daylight hours (Denmark's proximity to the arctic makes it one of the countries where daylight lasts even longer during the summer than what most are used to in the U.S.), Kevin took a solo weekend trip to Geneva and another weekend trip with a friend to Berlin. The trip to Geneva was particularly special because it allowed Kevin to engage his French skills (he'd studied French in high school), and it was also his first solo international travel experience.
"I know that I'll do what it takes to be okay."
Some time after graduating in 2015, Kevin took a leap of faith and moved to the state of Washington with no plans, just hoping to see how he might establish himself. Three years later, Kevin lives in Tacoma and isn't where he imagined he'd be (not necessarily in a bad way), but overall life has unfolded to the point where he feels secure about his choices and affirmed in his ability to be independent. And that ability to handle things and stand on his own two feet was something he was able to confirm during his time in Europe. It made for good practice, if you will, and now he can attest that, "I know that I'll do what it takes to be okay." He wouldn't mind returning to Copenhagen but would definitely like to visit new places in Asia, the global South, and north Africa first. Kevin can be found on Instagram (@misterkchung).
Be sure to listen to this episode, "The Sun Sets at Midnight (COPENHAGEN)" for more! And don't forget to check out the resource list below! See you in 2019!