As a child of immigrants, student learns importance of balancing life, managing time

Elaine+Kim%2C+19%2C+international+studies+major.%0Aphoto+credit%3A+Alexa+Kinoshita
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As a child of immigrants, student learns importance of balancing life, managing time

Elaine Kim, 19, international studies major.
photo credit: Alexa Kinoshita

Elaine Kim, 19, international studies major. photo credit: Alexa Kinoshita

Elaine Kim, 19, international studies major. photo credit: Alexa Kinoshita

Elaine Kim, 19, international studies major. photo credit: Alexa Kinoshita

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From a small apartment shared by three other people, growing up as the middle child of an immigrant family from Korea isn’t so easy.

Dropping her 16-year-old sister off at school is how the day is started before rushing to the constantly busy restaurant she hosts for.

Working 25 hours a week, just to keep up with the financial aspects that school and household bills expect are stressful and time-consuming.

If not at work, she’s studying notes and doing homework for the 13 units she is taking at El Camino College, where she plans to raise her GPA in hopes of transferring to UCLA.

At home, she helps her single mother and 21-year-old sister with cooking dinner and daily chores.

The 19-year-old international studies major, Elaine Kim, does all this and most of the time in one day.

“All I want to do is take a nap as soon as I get home, but there are so many responsibilities that I have to take care of,” Kim said. “Work keeps me motivated to continue making money to pay for life expenses, but it’s stressful and actually really draining.”

She spends her time at the Taiwanese dumpling restaurant accommodating, for often angry customers, following her manager’s instructions, and dealing with the constant tasks that her job entails.

The amount of stress that the job brings her is sometimes mentally unbearable, but she has to keep the job in order to keep the home that Kim and her family has so desperately tried to save after moving around for the past seven years.

Aside from rent, she pays for her own phone bills, car insurance, education, and necessities like contacts that add up fast when trying to save money on an Urban Outfitters top she’s had her eye on.

Kim’s boyfriend, Jeon Park, a 19-year-old El Camino mathematics major has seen firsthand the things that she has been forced to do.

“She honestly goes through so much and I don’t know anyone who’s had to accomplish the things that she’s had to in the amount of time that she’s been on this earth,” Park said. “I’m constantly in awe of the workload she takes up, all while like helping out her family.”

With all of the daily activities that a second-year college student is forced to carry, Kim has had to take on more weight than others may have had to.

“At like a young age, I felt so different from a lot of my friends whose parents were from the United States because they got to experience so many things that I wished I could’ve done,” Kim said.

Her family couldn’t travel out of the country or eat at high-end restaurants, that her friends talked about, because of her mother’s immigrant status and the expenses that they just could not afford.

Since fourth grade, Kim has had to grow at a faster pace than the rest of the kids her age should have had to do.

Instead of having sleepovers at her friend’s house, her nights were spent translating tax information and documents into her mother’s native language Korean.

“Due to our family’s circumstances, she’s matured a lot faster than other kids her age because she has been forced to take on a bigger role,” Kim’s mother, Kyung Sun Yoo, said.

Even now, her roles have expanded to responsibilities that other people her age usually don’t stress over.

Doing household chores is one thing, but working a job five days a week just to keep food on the table is a task she never foresaw.

She is no longer just the middle sister, a daughter, and a child, but has had to grow up to become an income provider, a responsible household figure, and an adult.

“It’s been tough having to step up especially with the immigrant background I’ve been forced to keep hidden, but it’s taught me a lot of responsibility and I’m not sure if there’s a better way to learn that,” Kim said.

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