The Asian American Student Association (AASA) is my family and one of the best organizations I’ve been in thus far. Our E-board members work very hard to bring an event for the student body every week. At the beginning of my sophomore year, we discussed about possibly expanding our outreach to students and coming up with an event on a bigger scale. After many sessions of brainstorming, we came up with a topic that is very dear to my heart, “North Korea” and its relationship with South Korea and the international community. The title (which I came up with) of the conference was: Voices for North Korea.
I am often asked the question: “Where are you from?” and I proudly answer: “I’m from Korea”. However, more often than not I get blank stares and a question that very much startles me: “North or South?”. Whenever I am asked this question, I am reminded again that I am from a war torn country. Growing up in Beijing as an expat, I never really thought about how the division between North and South Korea impacted me. I never really considered North Korea because South Korea was the only “Korea” in my mind. After coming the U.S., I started to think about North and South Korea in a more critical perspective and became interested in the current affairs of the “other Korea”. Therefore the topic of our conference was very personally meaningful for me. I not only wanted to learn and become more aware of the situation in North Korea but also wanted my fellow Trinity peers to become more interested and mindful of issues outside Trinity’s beautiful quad.
The event was planned from scratch and everyone was very enthusiastic about our new project. I played a key role in organizing the conference as the treasurer of AASA. I had to manage large sums (over $3000) of money and organize every detail of the event that involved money. I had to set an initial budget and request more funding from the Student Government Budget Committee and work with other academic departments and organizations to get more money. On top of my role as a Treasurer, as one of the older members on the board, I led the group and initiatives so the planning of the conference went according to plan. Our E-board members always say our organization runs like a family business. The process of organizing the conference was definitely challenging but we were able to learn along the process and ultimately create one of the best events in AASA’s history because we were a great team. I was able to truly learn the importance of cooperation and felt empowered as a student leader on Trinity’s campus.
Overall the conference was a huge success! More than 100 students attended the conference and we were able to offer 3 interesting workshops that discussed a variety of topics such as human rights, history and international relations. We not only had a guest professor speak about the current affairs in North Korea in relation to history and politics but also had two NGOs – Liberty in North Korea (LINK) and Emancipate North Koreans (ENoK) to lead workshops. The highlight of our conference and the initial purpose of our conference was the story from North Korea. We had a North Korean refugee to share her life story from North Korea and her experiences after coming out of North Korea.