Update from a former Empower House student, now in college!

(Only a dozen words were edited from our friend’s original version.)

I would like to update my life as a college student in the United States because of my intention to express my deep gratitude for ENoK and the people who made my dream possible. Before sharing my experience in college, I would like to summarize my previous life as a North Korean refugee.
Education was my dream over decades after dropping out of elementary school in North Korea. Under the financial difficulties and the unique economic system of the North Korean government, I had to help my family survive instead of going school at the age of 11. Throughout my experience as a homeless in China and Thailand, I realized that hope is more important than who we are today, and everything is more accomplishable when we understand the power of the American values, and not just the democratic system, but understand the people of America and their sympathy.
During the arduous journey across many countries, I never thought of giving up my hope in education—my American dream. As a refugee, I arrived in U.S, with only a pair of socks in my pockets, but full of excitement and hope. At that moment, I could not speak any English, nor could I understand the American society, especially when it came to communicating with other Americans: not only was it a problem of limited English, but I had been taught differently in a different culture. Also, it was shameful to admit that I was not able to solve an elementary level math problem.

As soon as I settled down in a remote city in a XXXX, I realized that there are limitations in pursuing my dream, such as finding jobs, let alone following the American dream in education. The reality seemed more forceful than my American dream. Among many college graduates, I became more miserable than before because of my reality, and my dream seemed void.
However, I was not aware of the Americans, Korean communities and nonprofit organizations, such as ENoK that helped refugees. The existence of such great communities and organizations have encouraged me to follow my dream in education despite my low level of education and situation. After participating in ENoK program, I was able to attain GED within two years under the instruction of the great teaching staffs and volunteers.
Even though my dream was started from nothing in North Korea, it led me to escape from North Korea to a great country, United States, and to college. I never expected to be a college student in the U.S when I was homeless in China, but my hope and the help from people made my dream possible. As soon as I realized the American values, my perspective was changed from criticizing capitalism to wanting to improve the American society and its values further through my education.
Right now, my dream is not only studying in a college but working for refugees and communities in order to practice the American values and improve the communities. Now, I believe that America is strong, not because of its system and military power, but the people and communities that share and perpetuate the value of sympathy and education, which made my dream possible.
So, every moment and every homework in college are precious for me because I had struggled to be a college student for decades by risking my life and taking lifelong separation with my family. The time in college is a gift for me because still many refugees are struggling for life let alone education. Especially when I deliver presentations in front of the many students in college, it is like a dream because I never imagined doing this when I was homeless in China, and I never thought of helping and working for other people.
Without ENoK, I would live as a refugee without realizing the American value and my potential through education. ENoK stands for North Koreans but I believe that ENoK represents the American values, and it is a great asset to American society. I am confident for my future and excited to meet my adventures. Also, I am grateful to ENoK for providing a chance to escape from Plato’s Cave. I am grateful to many supporters of ENoK that inspires many North Korean refugees and our community.

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