International Student Spotlight: Tae Hwang

HAYLEY MANN

Features Editor

hayleym@goshen.edu

International education is a large part of the Goshen College culture.

It is usually thought of in the terms of the Study Service program that places traditional GC students in different cultures. However, an important aspect of Goshen’s commitment to international education is the incorporation of international students within the student body.

As a relatively small college, getting international students to comprise nine percent of the student body is no small feat. Tae Hwang is an international student from Korea, studying biochemistry, who found Goshen through connections with his host family in Ohio.

“My host father was Terry Shue, a cabinet member of Mennonite Church USA, and all of his three daughters and two sons-in-law went to GC,” Hwang said. “One of their sons-in-law was Jeff Hochstetler, a previous admissions counselor and administrator at Goshen. So the family told me lots of good things about GC, then Jeff told me about their scholarship for international students.”

Hwang applied and was accepted with the intention of being a business major, but quickly switched to a science focus just before classes started.

“I should say that I looked into many colleges and I really liked GC’s core values and the reputation of their science department, but it would be a lie,” Hwang explained. “I was attending a small Mennonite high school in Kidron, Ohio and my sister was attending an expensive art school in Georgia, so I was looking for the cheapest option. I’m just lucky that Goshen has a great science department.”

When talking to those who return from SST, many stories begin with linguistic or cultural misunderstandings and the experience is a challenge to many traditional students. Trying to navigate the Goshen community for four years with only a few, if any, students from your home country presents even more of a challenge.

“I’m a special case because I had three years in the U.S before I came to GC and two years of that was in a Mennonite community,” Hwang said. “So GC wasn’t a strange place to me, compared to other international students who have no experience with Mennonites before coming here.”

Hwang’s experiences have allowed him to be unique in his involvement around campus. Cultural differences and language barriers can make it difficult for international students to feel fully welcome, but Hwang has a unique perspective.

“My position enabled me to become friends with anyone on the campus,” Hwang said. “I could reach out to international students because we all know what we’re going through, I could become friends with Mennonite students since I had two years of experience in Kidron, OH, and also with other friends who don’t fit in those two categories as I lived in Louisiana for a year going to a public school.”

With so many opportunities for academic, athletic and social integration, Hwang took a huge risk and became one of the few pre-dental students at Goshen College.

“A lot of people told me international students can’t go to medical schools or dental schools in the U.S.,” Hwang explains. “Therefore, my goal since freshman year has been to become a perfect candidate—except for my international student label—because I believed every system has exceptions. It was a bold thought, but I tried to become that exception.”

Even if Hwang managed to be absolutely perfect by dentistry admission standards, his international status makes those schools wary in accepting him and financial aid even more ominous.

“Goshen has so many pre-med students, but not many other pre-health professional students,” Hwang said. “So whenever I went to pre-health club meetings, the information they provided was mainly for the pre-med students. In my knowledge, the last student who graduated as pre-dental student and went to a dental school graduated four or five years ago. So I had to reach out.”

Hwang was able to use the network of friends and colleagues in the Goshen area to contact people who knew how to get him on track for admittance into dental school. A cousin of a good friend, Hwang discovered, was a vice-president of the American Dental Education Association (ADEA), an organization that looks over curriculums for dental schools across the nation.

“[Networking this way] was miraculous, because I told my friends that I was going to change my major to accounting if I didn’t find the answer for the question ‘Can I go to a dental school as an international student?’ before my junior year,” Hwang said. “He [VP of ADEA] gave me a clear answer that I can go to a dental school in the country as an international student when I visited him the summer after my sophomore year. He also helped me a lot throughout my school decisions after I was accepted to several schools this year.”

Hwang was invited to four interviews, and was the only international student that he met on the interview trips.

“I don’t know how I got such a good result from my Dental Admission Test (DAT) and everything worked out so well for me, but it would have been impossible without the people I’ve met throughout my college career,” Hwang said.

“The small school environment at Goshen allowed me to participate in extracurricular activities—soccer, choir, RA, TA, ISC, pre-health club and research experience—which made my application more valuable. On top of that, GC provided me opportunities to build personal relationships with amazing professors who helped me immensely throughout my application process. I would not have been able to make it without their help.”

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