Andrew Kim is an alumnus of the TBB Global Gap Year Program Class ’12 and The Roxbury Latin School. He is currently a student at Harvard University studying psychology. In this interview, Andrew shares his experiences in college: the Model United Nations, a public health internship in Uganda, and using his gap year skills.
Did your gap year influence your interests when you got into college?
I think at the end of my gap year, I was very moved by the conversations that I had among my peers on the program and inspired to create change. When I came to Harvard I had the desire to continue this education. I was a little discouraged by how little discussion there was on my campus on international development or sustainable development. In the academic realm, the most popular classes were economics, and it was a very different way of viewing the world than what I had come to appreciate. At first I tried joining a lot of organizations that were sort of development focused, but after a while, I don’t think I found a place on campus to foster that. Now I am studying psychology, looking mostly to take clinical psychology. I think a lot of mental health, and people’s individual experiences, which in some way was fostered by seeing so many different lives. I sort of realized that my interest is in having interactions with people.
Being exposed to global development issues, what lessons have been useful in college?
A sense of humility and perspective. What I mean about humility is that a lot about the TBB program is deconstructing what you felt you knew about the world and questioning that. You weren’t provided many answers. Instead you were left with more questions. I feel that it humbled me about how little I knew about the world and assumptions that I had made that didn’t end up being true. I think having a critical eye has been one of the most important things I learned. Also, I think when everyone does things in a different way (on campus) – there is a lot of pressure engaging with different fields – having the strength to say maybe that is not the correct way. The other thing I gained at TBB was perspective. I think it’s very easy to feel stuck in a bubble when you are on a college campus. Everything seems so important. I think that getting to see the world before going on to college has allowed me think critically about what my priorities are, that is, the things that I should be devoting my time to.
Are you involved in any activities and what role(s) do you play?
I am involved with the Model United Nations in which I am directing a committee. It is an a simulation of the United Nations in which students reenact political bodies around the world and try to create some sort of compromise or resolution the way the UN would. The other thing I do on campus is the Peer Company. I am part of a Peer Company group that opens every night for students to come and we will listen to everything that they have to say. And that is most important to me, to promote mental health on campus.
Have you been abroad again since TBB?
Yes. The two extended times that I have been abroad have been the two summers that I spent in college. The first time I went to Uganda for a public health internship, working on a research project. I looked at how micro-finance can help low income families in Uganda. And the second time I have been abroad was in Japan last semester, sort of doing research into neuroscience.
Some students worry they’ll fall behind if they take a gap year before college. Has that been true for you?
I think it was a supreme advantage. It’s funny that people think that, because there is so much more going the opposite direction. People get into college not really knowing why they are there and whether they want to be there, and it is very easy to burn out during college because it’s an intensive four years. I felt relatively burned out after high school, but after my gap year with TBB, I really came to college with this renewed desire to learn. I was excited about homework and school work again. I think that TBB was an exciting and thought provoking academic experience in a lot of ways. You still learn how to think, that doesn’t go away; that’s still very much yours as you go into college. So it’s actually positive.
What do you want to do with the rest of your time in college and after?
I don’t think I have a 100 percent concrete answer. I changed my focus to mental health, and to think about how to help people live more fulfilling lives. Ultimately as an individual or as a counsellor, the end is to help people to achieve satisfying and fulfilling lives, and that is what you want if you do any humanitarian work. So I have been thinking of doing clinical psychology because I feel that my strength is working with people, helping them learn how to make meaning or helping them to live satisfying lives. And with the rest of my time here, I intend to promote mental health awareness on campus and keep trying to make connections.