Three Korean students, who come from diverse backgrounds, share insights into their experiences at Azusa Pacific University and how they have contributed to the school with their varied experiences.

APU has a long history that is composed of generations of faculty members and students from different backgrounds. As APU celebrates its 125th anniversary as an institution, we have the chance to come together as a community to celebrate the history of diversity in the APU community. 

APU has a diverse student body consisting of students from a broad range of backgrounds and nations. The APU website states, “Azusa Pacific University approaches diversity from a biblical perspective, affirming that diversity is an expression of God’s image, love, and boundless creativity.” We, the community, openly embrace people from different countries and backgrounds, forming harmonious relationships and exhibiting affection for one another. 

The ability to engage with students from diverse nationalities helps us understand those cultures from our unique backgrounds and traditions. Through doing life with a diverse group of students, we are able to have a deeper understanding of them and their values. 

One such unique population on campus is students with Korean heritage. Here are some stories from several perspectives that show how students with Korean heritage experience diversity at APU. 

Ian Jin

Ian Jin, a freshman nursing major, is from a Korean American background. He stated, “My experiences as a Korean American in APU have been great. In high school, making friends was brutal for me because of cultural and religious differences. However, I could connect with students here at APU easily because of how similar our culture and religion was.” 

Jin continued, “APU was different from my high school because of its diversity. My high school’s demographic was mainly white and Chinese students. However, coming to APU, I was able to connect with a lot of Korean students.”

Jin claims that his experience at APU as a Korean American has allowed him to make Korean friends and learn more about his mother country’s culture. 

While at APU, Jin has made friends with individuals from Korea. It is evident to him that his lived experiences differ between him and his Korean friends. His friends have mainly lived in Korea and have different experiences with the United States environment than he does. 

Despite the cultural differences, Jin has been able to provide support to his Korean friends as they navigate new situations. This experience has allowed him to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for different cultures.

“My diversity is different from other Korean students here at APU,” said Jin. “The majority of the Korean students I know are international students coming from different areas of the world — mainly South Korea. However, I was born and raised in California, so I helped these international students get comfortable with American culture in a way.”

Gero Jun

Gero Jun, a sophomore majoring in computer science, is a Korean who was raised in Chile for most of his life. He’s involved in the campus’ Third Culture Kid (TCK) club and is currently an RA.

Jun contributes to the culture on campus through his role in the TCK club. He said, “I contributed by being [part of] leadership of the club of TCK, bring[ing] diversity and points of view to my interactions with other students, [and] actively participating in on-campus events of other cultures.”

As a Korean individual who has lived most of his life in a Latin American culture, Jun brings a unique background to his experience at APU.

My main experience has been with the TCK club,” said Jun. “I’ve been able to help many international people, interact with them, celebrate each other’s culture, etc. Besides that, I’ve been able to also participate in different cultural events like Hispanic heritage and others.”

Jun speaks highly of his involvement in the TCK club, saying it has allowed him to create valuable memories. He enjoys assisting international students and engaging with diverse cultures, relishing the experience of celebrating the various cultures the club is involved with. His time in the TCK club has profoundly impacted his overall APU experience.

 Jun also sees distinct differences between APU and his culture.

“Different environment, culture shock, less support, independence — There is a lot of hardship simply because I am not local. I don’t have a family I can rely on for help,” said Jun.

He said part of the difficulty of being in a new culture is in things like opening a social security card or filing taxes on his own. He also doesn’t have any transportation means, so he can only move around California by paying for ridesharing services.

“I was raised in Chile and lived in Korea for four years. Hence, I have a lot of cultural awareness of Asian and Latin American cultures,” said Jun. “It is unique; however, coming from both backgrounds gives a unique perspective that only some share. I adopted different views from both cultures and sometimes even combined them.”

At first, the new environment was unfamiliar and challenging for Jun. He struggled to find help as he had no one to turn to. However, his experience living in Asian and Latin American cultures helped him gain cultural awareness, giving him a broader perspective to embrace diverse cultures. He has blended these cultures and established more profound connections with them.

Heejae Jung

Heejae Jung, a South Korean native, is a sophomore studying international relations and honors humanities. Before coming to APU, he attended an international school where he was exposed to various cultures.

“I have contributed to APU as an international student by providing different perspectives to other domestic students. I have a different culture and background since I was born and raised in South Korea. This enables me to view a problem differently and provide insights to peers,” said Jung. 

He continued, “APU is ethnically diverse, and it helps me adjust well to the community. As an international student, I do not experience discrimination on campus.” 

Jung described APU as where he’s found belonging as an international student. He has felt welcomed by his peers and has gotten involved in the community. APU has offered opportunities for him to learn about different cultures and religions.

“I met many friends who genuinely love Jesus Christ and want to build personal relationships with Him. I learned the importance of establishing a close relationship with Jesus Christ at APU instead of practicing religion.”