Like many international students, Sueshin “Sarah” Moon ’22, from South Korea, had not experienced American culture in person before coming to Denison.
“I struggled to socialize with other students and understand cultural differences in my first year,” says Moon, who is a philosophy, politics, and economics (PPE) major with minors in Spanish and music. “Everything was different and new to me, from asking ‘How are you?’ to eating without chopsticks that I have been using for my entire life.”
Moon tapped into the campus community, findings lots of ways to make connections. When she felt isolated and confused about cultural norms, she reached out to the staff at the International Student Services office.
And that was just the start. Moon has become very involved across campus and is affecting real change in the community.
She has been working as a Research, Engagement, and Design (RED) Corps Fellow in the RED Frame Lab, tutoring in the Academic Resource Center, and helping the Philosophy Department as a student worker. Moon also was elected as the policy chair in the executive board of the Denison Campus Governance Association (DCGA).
And she’s doing something on a highly practical level — she represents international students on the Dining Committee.
“For international students, food is everything, from spices and recipes to eating habits. Since last year, I have initiated several teaching kitchens so the chefs in dining halls could learn how to make traditional food from different countries,” she says.
“After that, dining halls started to have more variety of international food from diverse countries, including Korea and India. In addition, I hosted the Korean Annual Dinner with other members of the Asian Culture Club (ACC) to help international students feel a sense of belonging to the Denison community and to introduce new cultural taste to domestic students.”
Other things are harder to change.
“A few of my friends have told me that it is hard to be friends with international students because ‘they are very focused on academics and do not get much involved in campus organizations,’” she adds. “Although I truly enjoy studying and delving into knowledge, especially philosophy, I want to change that stereotypical view and show that I am not only academically driven but also passionate about co-curricular involvement.”
Moon encourages her international cohort to engage with other campus organizations, too. She takes a personal interest in other international student experiences and suggests specific organizations they might be interested in based on their passions.
“By the time I graduate from Denison, I would like to bridge the gap between domestic and international students by not only providing opportunities for them to interact but also by continuously supporting international students to easily assimilate to the new culture,” says Moon.
“I hope that international students can be as comfortable as I am to be a part of the larger Denison community and learn to be their true selves despite cultural differences.”
The Joseph Hines Memorial Award
In recognition of Moon’s contributions to campus and international student life, she was given the 2020 Joseph Hines Memorial Award with $500, in memory of Joe Hines ‘04, who had a keen interest in diversity, serving others, leadership, and making positive contributions to the Denison community.