Imagine living nearly 8,000 miles from home, learning a new language and occupation, raising a child and getting settled with your spouse in a different country. It sounds daunting doesn’t it? Just spend five minutes with Kyung “Jin” Park, a master’s degree seeking student from South Korea and you’ll learn it’s all been worth it thanks to his experience as lifeguard at the UCF Recreation and Wellness Center.
The Korean military dispatched Jin, as his friends call him, to the United States and UCF in July 2015 with his 2-year-old son Jihoo and wife Mia. Captain Jin Park has been in the South Korean military for 14 years. He received an undergraduate degree at the Korean Military Academy (similar to West Point here in the U.S.) in environmental science. As part of his military career he’s pursuing his master’s degree in industrial engineering.
Jin learned about the RWC during the International Affairs and Global Strategies (IAGS) student orientation. He attended the RWC fall 2015 job fair after talking to a lifeguard after working out one day at the lap pool. He says working at UCF has improved his overall campus experience, “I wanted to work here (Recreation and Wellness Center Aquatics) as a lifeguard to make friends and have experiences as a university man. I feel a kind of freedom here because I have never been to a university before.”
Jin says the move to UCF hasn’t been without its challenges. For example, the language barrier. Jin has studied English his entire life, but really focused on learning the language six months before moving here. He says limited exposure to English made the RWC lifeguard certification class difficult, but he studied hard to pass. He’s thrilled he got the job after trying out, “I’m so happy here because I’m doing what I want to do, as a University man, as a military man, I love studying. I love working as a lifeguard. I love to make new friends. I’m very happy here.”
Jin calls his job his favorite part of being a Knight. Though he’s been a military man for years he loves being a student here, “UCF is a growing university. It is one of the biggest universities because of the students (enrollment). So there is a bunch of opportunity to experience everything, so I can experience many sports clubs, study clubs, martial arts (clubs). Everything! I don’t have a lot of time, but there are great chances to experience so much. I love this.”