My name is Yea Rang Song. I will be a junior this fall, and I am pursuing a degree in religion with an emphasis on biblical studies, German and classical studies. I plan to go to seminary after college and prepare to become a missionary like my parents; their lives as missionaries in South Africa and Zimbabwe have inspired me to help others.
Two years ago, on August 16, 2017, my plane landed at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I was exhausted from a long flight from South Korea but also excited for the “dream come true” college life. I remember getting into a white van with the Hope College logo on it and setting off for Holland, Michigan to begin a new adventure.
Growing up in South Korea, South Africa and Zimbabwe, I knew I wanted to attend college, but I wasn’t sure where. I began researching different colleges, but was interested in Hope because it was recommended to me by my cousin. Unlike other colleges and universities, Hope had the best acceptance letter! All the other places sent a short email or letter congratulating me, but Hope’s was different — it was very personal. They responded to every single detail that I had written in my application essay. That is when I decided that I wanted to be part of a community like Hope College.
When I got out of the van, I found myself surrounded by a beautiful green campus. It was quiet because I had arrived a week earlier than other incoming freshmen. This was so I could attend a time of orientation designed especially for international students. This week-long series of events and activities put on by the Fried Center for Global Engagement was set up to help us learn about Hope, Holland and Michigan. My favorite part was visiting the Sleeping Bear Dunes and Mackinac Island. Looking back at this experience, I am even more grateful for the warm welcome I received and for all of the staff members at the Fried Center for Global Engagement.
Freshman year was the year of adjusting to American life. Although I had grown up in various countries as a foreigner my entire life, living in America was different. All my professors made their very best effort to make me feel more comfortable and welcome. After class, they would take time to talk to me – it felt good that they went out of their way and were willing to get to know me. Of course, there were times when I didn’t understand why people were saying certain things or doing things in a certain way, but because of these experiences, I was able to learn.
Being part of the Phelps Scholars Program allowed me to experience a more diverse community. All the professors and the students tried their best to understand students from different cultures and values. This program is also where I met my group of close friends. Knowing that there will always be a community for me made my first year at Hope easier.
I got my first job working in Print and Mail Services during the second semester of my freshman year. I learned a lot, and it helped me improve my communication skills. Even at work I felt welcomed. At the beginning of each semester, my boss brought us a meal while going over the goals for the semester. She even provided all the student workers snack bags before finals. Through her actions, I could see how much the staff at Hope cares about their students, and once again there was proof that I had made the right choice in coming to Hope.
After freshman year, I went back home for the summer. Although it was hard to leave home again, returning to Hope for my sophomore year was easier because I knew I had a community at Hope waiting for me which had become my second family. It was also the year I began working in the Development and Alumni Engagement office and learning more about fundraising. I learned how many people give back to help support students like me. In this new job, I had the great opportunity of thanking people for their gifts by writing notes to them.
All of the “different” I had experienced in the past two years was a good different. Growing up as a missionary kid, serving was always a part of my life. It was not until I started working on Hope’s campus that I realized the true meaning of reciprocal service. Serving and being served was a new life experience for me. I am looking forward to traveling to Germany to study abroad this spring and learn even more about what it means to serve in a global society. Hope College has been a blessing to me.
You can help support students like Yea Rang when you make a gift to the area that you love at hope.edu/give.