Read Part I of the series here.
New environment. New identities. No parents. How do Harvard Christian freshmen maintain and grow their faith during that first transformative year? Who and what motivates and influences them?
This interview, the second of this series, is with Dohyun Kim, a freshman living in Wigglesworth Hall. Dohyun is from El Centro, California and plans to concentrate in Molecular and Cellular Biology with plans to go to medical school. Dohyun is involved with organizations such as Harvard University Global Health Forum (HUGHF), the Philip Brooks House Association (PBHA), Asian American Dance Troupe (AADT), and Asian American Christian Fellowship (AACF).
Ike Adeyemi-Idowu: Can you start by telling me a little bit about your background?
Dohyun Kim: I grew up in Korea, but I moved to California when I was still young. I was raised within a Christian family, and I’ve attended the same church for most of my life. I guess I’ve called myself a Christian for as long as I can remember, but I don’t think I began to understand what it meant to be a Christian until my junior or senior year of high school.
IA: How so?
DK: When I was younger, going to church and reading the Bible were all routines. I just did it because everyone in my family was doing it. I don’t think I really questioned it or really tried to understand why I was doing this until those last couple of years of high school.
IA: So you would say that your family has largely influenced your faith?
DK: Yeah, my parents have influenced me the most. I don’t think I would have been a Christian if not for them. It was nice to have that initial stage of attending church regularly as a result of my parents’ guidance. Now my faith is a lot more influenced by the community and the friends that I’ve made who are continuously encouraging me to grow in my relationship with God.
IA: Did you have any concerns about your faith before coming to Harvard?
DK: I guess college in general is a very scary concept in terms of being responsible for pretty much every aspect of your life. Something like going to church every week was simple back home because my parents were going. All I had to do was get in the car. But here it takes a lot more discipline. If I don’t go to church one week, there’s no one here to scold me. I just have to do it on my own. So in that sense, it’s more challenging to continue being Christian: reading the Bible on my own, praying on my own, and such. They’re very simple things, but it’s tough when there’s no one to remind you or do it with you.
IA: How do you reconcile your identity as a Christian with your identity as a Harvard student?
DK: When attending Harvard, I think a lot of students try to figure out their identity: who am I as a student? What do I want to do? What do I want to accomplish during my four years here? Growing up as a Korean American, I’ve definitely thought a lot about my identity. For example, I was the only Korean in my graduating class. Actually, as a senior, I think I was the only Korean in my entire high school. Not that there weren’t Asians in the community, but I’ve definitely had issues figuring out which group I identify with. Like am I American or am I Korean? I didn’t have any Asian friends back home, so it was difficult. But now, I think I do consider myself to be more Korean without giving it much thought. In a similar effortless sense, and above all, my friends here and I have one thing in common, and that’s our belief in God. We identify as Christians, and having that foundational similarity really brings me closer to God. Having these horizontal relationships that boost my vertical relationship with God has really been helpful.
IA: What has surprised you the most about the Christian community, or communities, at Harvard?
DK: To be honest, I don’t really know what I expected coming in. Where I grew up, the members of my church youth group weren’t very enthusiastic about their faith. But here, I’ve really been able to witness enthusiasm for God in the form of spontaneous prayer sessions, or random jam sessions. Someone would just ask on the AACF group chat, “Hey, is anyone busy tonight?” And we’d go to a music room and sing worship songs. Things like that have made me really impressed with the Christian community on campus. Everyone’s enthusiasm is just really contagious.
IA: You’ve touched on this a little bit already, but if you have anything to add, what changes have you experienced in your faith since coming to Harvard?
DK: It’s definitely been a challenge, just maintaining my identity as a Christian. But I think it has grown stronger, just because I’ve had to put in a lot more effort. I’ve benefited a lot from the challenges: a lot spiritually, a lot mentally, and a lot socially.
IA: As your freshman year comes to a close, do you have any hopes regarding your Christian walk?
DK: As I go into my upperclassmen years, one thing that has been and will be challenging for me is learning to prioritize things above my academic pursuits. They have been number one on my list for a long time, and I know I need to focus on remembering that academia isn’t everything. It’s definitely important but it’s not everything. And I don’t think prioritizing academics makes me as happy as prioritizing God and my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. It will be more challenging as classes get harder and more responsibilities flood my life, but I look forward to the challenges that will strengthen my relationship with God.
Ikeoluwa Adeyemi ‘19 lives in Thayer Hall and plans to concentrate in Sociology. She thanks Dohyun for agreeing to this interview.