We are so delighted to have Dona Park from Goshen College intern with us this summer as part of the Mennonite Church USA Ministry Inquiry Program (MIP). We have asked her to introduce herself to our ministry friends and supporters as she begins the summer with us.
by Dona Park
“Hello, my name is...”
Hello, my name is Dona Park, junior heading into her senior year at Goshen College. I am currently double majoring in art and history. This is the usual, somewhat bland introduction that I have become so accustomed to giving. If that was the sole descriptor of who I was, it would be one introduction that doesn’t say much about who I am. It omits the fact that although I love learning about art and history (not art history), I have a passion to pursue knowledge in many other fields. I don’t necessarily want to become a history teacher or a studio artist- instead, I am a person who seeks to utilize my knowledge in these fields with the life experiences to create an understanding society. It does not share my growing passion for social justice and support for marginalized communities. Nor does it show my desire to continually learn about my Korean heritage, as well as where I have been and why I am here today.
Moving Across Continents: From Korea to Peru
I was born in South Korea to my parents Joon Park and Shim Beack, and then moved to the States when I turned five years old. That move to a different continent would not be the last; in fact, looking back, it seems to have served as a catalyst to my family’s constant moving across cities and continents. After living in Vermont for two years, we decided to pack up our bags to the West Coast. We became immigrants, driving and settling temporarily in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, then three years later to a city called Abbotsford. Later, my father decided to pursue theological studies in Indiana, USA, and little did I know that I would move back to Indiana to complete my Bachelors.
To adjust to a new environment meant that I had to sacrifice some of my culture because I wanted to fit in. That meant proving that I spoke English fluently, or trying to hide my funky Korean lunches and opt for the paper bag sandwiches. Or sometimes, it meant that I had to hide the fact I didn’t have a Canadian accent when American students pointed out if I lived “aboot” town. And even back in Canada, I had to make claims to Canadian pop culture to prove that I wasn’t American.
This cultural identity confusion, as cliché as the story may be, persisted and still, I am navigating. However, throughout college, I began to realize the importance of my experiences and my differences. During this Spring semester, I had to opportunity to visit South America. I lived in Peru through Goshen College’s Study Service term, where I could see many differences between what I understood was the norm. But more than differences, I found myself relating to many of the customs because of my Korean cultural background. From the summer humidity to little grocery markets, to families living together, I found myself in tune with the culture. But there were many instances where I felt distinctly uncomfortable, particularly my being as an Asian.As much as I enjoyed running about, experiencing different foods, speaking a new language, there was an aching sense for familiarity and I found myself missing my Korean/Canadian culture. That “going back to my roots” theme never felt so real.
A Korean, Canadian, and somewhat American Girl
Now I am a young adult, living in a somewhat homogenous community in Indiana, I realize the importance of having a beautiful, multi-cultural identity. To speak two or more languages, to call Korean food “Mom’s cooking,” to understand the importance of family, and to be exposed to so many other cultures are privileges.
I’m excited to contribute whatever I can to ReconciliAsian and Mountain View Mennonite Church, but even from spending my first few days, I have yet to learn so much. From my personal faith to cultural identity, I know this experience will be an encouraging and affirming one. I hope that my perspective from a different generation as well as the amalgamation of experiences I have nurtured can provide a different voice within this community.