July 29, 2009 07:26
2002 Miss Korea Keum Na-na graduated from Harvard University last year and will resume graduate studies at Columbia University's Institute of Human Nutrition in September. Keum is currently teaching online SAT classes for a private crammer in Korea.
Keum caused a sensation when she won the 2002 Miss Korea pageant as she had both beauty and a brain, being a medical student at Kyungpook National University at the time. Two years later, she made headlines again by making it into Harvard, when she said she hoped to be a surgeon.
Failure was not part of Keum's life. "I thought I could do anything when I left for Harvard," recalls Keum. But she soon faced big obstacles. "Because my English was not as good as other classmates', writing and elective classes were difficult," she admits. She began to question her abilities as she had to compete with bright Harvard students and found herself constantly snowed under with work.
Feelings of anxiety, insecurity and homesickness wore her down. "I couldn't stop feeling that I was an alien in the U.S." She devoted all her time and energy to study, and after four years of hard work and spending most of her time in the library, classrooms and her dorm, she graduated cum laude.
But the worst crisis was yet to come: all her 26 applications to medical school in the U.S. were rejected. "Medicine is my destiny and my calling," she says. She has not given up her dream and instead chose to pursue graduate studies in nutrition for the time being.
She is also teaching math and chemistry online for the second summer. "If I can share the knowledge and wisdom I gained from professors and seniors during my undergraduate years, I think that is one way of returning all the blessings I got from society," she says.
Now she is reluctant to make assertions about her future. "I can't say anything for sure at the moment because it changes constantly, but ultimately I will live a life for other people," she says. She also has advice for those who dream of studying at American universities. "It's important to take various courses and find a major that truly suits you," she says. "I have many regrets because I had to focus on study only, but I hope others who start universities have more diverse experiences by taking part in extracurricular activities."
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