XASS: Hello, Nadia! Introduce yourself.
Nadia: I’m originally from Seoul, South Korea. I also lived in McLean, Virginia and Deerfield, Massachusetts before coming to Stanford. And I am a sophomore, majoring in political science.
XASS: Do you have dual citizenship? Or are you a citizen just of Korea or America?
Nadia: I have only been a Korean citizen.
XASS: What brought your family to America, then?
Nadia: My dad has always worked in national security. So he was assigned to work in Washington DC at the Korean embassy when I was seven. So our family moved to Northern Virginia and I was there from when I was seven to fourteen. Then I went to boarding school in Massachusetts.
XASS: So why Stanford instead of one of the SKY schools? [SKY is a nickname for the three most prestigious Korean universities]
Nadia: Oh, I knew I could never attend Korean colleges. Any Korean schools, for that matter. First, I don’t like the education system that focuses on memorizing and pure facts, instead of creativity and application which, I think, American schools emphasize much more. And plus, I’m a rule breaker, and I’ve known that my entire life. So I really can’t conform to a system that tells you exactly what path to follow and what to study. Once I started living in Virginia, that was it. I’ve never imagined really any other kind of life. I really love all the schools I’ve attended in America, and I know I want to keep going on this path full of unexpected surprises. I want to stay long-term in America.
XASS: Do you have any nonacademic hobbies or passions that you spend your time on?
Nadia: Hmm. So a big one is music. I’ve played cello for 13 years. For a long time, classical music was my primary love of my life. Playing classical music and listening to it was really essential for growing up and exploring complex emotions. Also I would say popular music – especially rap – has actually been very influential for me, especially starting in high school. When I started exploring popular music more, I really discovered that there’s this whole treasure chest of things that I hadn’t known about before. Analyzing the context in which popular music exists today is always very interesting because it ties into politics and identities and interesting things like that. So music is a huge thing, and aside from that, I would say writing. I’m in the Stanford Daily, which I really like. And I also write creative nonfiction and poetry in my free time. I’m also involved in Stanford Effective Altruism, which is… I don’t really know how to describe it. It has a bad reputation. People think it’s like cold-hearted utilitarianism. It’s not! It is a mix of figuring out which charities have the most positive impact, philanthropy, meaningful career choice, and social justice. I think everyone should at least check out the ideas of Effective Altruism and decide if you like it or not.
XASS: Awesome. Were you raised with a church background?
Nadia: So this is very interesting because my mom’s side of the family has traditionally been very Christian; there have been pastors in the family. My dad’s side of the family has been Buddhist, kind of, but the younger generations have been more atheist. But I’ve been going to church ever since I can remember. I would say I really found Christ when I was like 12.
XASS: How did you wind up connecting with Chi Alpha?
Nadia: The summer before I came to Stanford I met Minha through mutual family friends. So she introduced me to Chi Alpha. Unlike many other people I did not go to ReFARMation. But I went to one of those early XA events. It was like a s’mores social in the very beginning of the year and I met some people there.
I asked someone like what makes Chi Alpha different from other Christian ministries on campus and they said there is a pastor who allows for long-term connections, and they also mentioned the diversity of the students in it. So I was like, okay, those two things sound really appealing to me, so I went to some events in the fall and then I think I kind of fell out winter quarter. The irony is that I began engaging in the Chi Alpha community the most during COVID-19. I would say that has been the silver lining during this pandemic.
XASS: And would you say that your experience at Stanford so far has been good for your faith, hard for your faith, or in-between?
Nadia: It has been the best for my faith in my entire life. I would say I have felt the most connected to my faith and other Christians. The biggest, the hardest struggle for me spiritually was that I was never really around a solid group of peer Christians. I didn’t know similar-aged Christians until I came to Stanford. When I came here I was so surprised because first, I thought Stanford would be a very secular place. And second I was surprised because the people I met in Chi Alpha were so enthusiastic and they devoted so much of their time to getting to know Jesus and each other. And I was like, “Wow. Where’s that motivation coming from?” I really think being around other people who are your age and also very devoted to God is very important. So yeah, Stanford has been amazing for my faith.
XASS: Awesome. Do you have a favorite Bible verse or passage?
Nadia: Yeah, I would say 2nd Corinthians 5:17. It’s a very famous verse – It just gets the central message of Christianity across, right? So I really like that one. Lately I’ve been really liking passages whenever Jesus talks about forgiving others because God showed us mercy first, so we should replicate that with other people. And I think that makes me humble and always brings into perspective that we ourselves were forgiven first. We shouldn’t be selfish and try to criticize other people.
XASS: Is there anything that if I knew you better, I would think to ask about?
Nadia: Hmm. I just really like talking about music and politics, and what’s great about that is I think every single person in the world is interested in at least one of those things. So that’s a very easy conversation starter whenever I meet anyone. So if anyone wants to talk to me about anything related to those things they can do so anytime!
XASS: Awesome, what’s your preferred platform for communication?
Nadia: Facebook Messenger.
XASS: The final question now: the classic Spotlight Series question. Are you in a relationship?
Nadia: No. I am single and ready to Christian mingle! *laughs* Not literally. I don’t actually want to use Christian Mingle. That was just a witty comment.
XASS: *laughing* Gentlemen, should you want to shoot your shot, Facebook Messenger is apparently the way to go.
Nadia: You asked because of that? I thought it was an innocent question!
XASS: Nadia, thank you for your time.