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TCK Sue Choe And Her Culturally Mobile Life

Sue Choe with friends – senior year at Seoul High School (Photo courtesy Sue Choe)

Third Culture Kid (TCK) Sue Choe was born in South Korea and grew up there as well as Saudi Arabia. She graduated from Seoul American High School in 1987.

Following graduation, she started her college career at Colorado State University.

This interview focuses on her life as a Korean in the United States. Here is what she had to say:

1. Is there a specific culture that you identify with more than another?

Sue Choe with friends – senior year at Seoul High School. (Photo courtesy Sue Choe)

Looking back, I wanted to fit into the American culture, so I really did not want to identify with my Korean heritage until I came to CSU. College made me appreciate my diversity and allowed me to learn more about my Korean culture by sharing my culture with others on campus.

2. What in your life has gotten you to where you are today? Does it have to do with where you are from, how you were raised, or who you surround yourself with?

Both Korean and American cultures played a huge part in my life. I was a very shy Korean girl until I came to college. As I was learning about my Korean culture, I was also given an opportunity to take advantage of the American culture. I was exposed to hard-working Koreans getting ready for the 1988 Olympics.

I was proud to see my Koreans achieve what seemed to be impossible for such a small country. As I was learning to be an adult in college, I realized that my ethnic background was not stopping me from getting ahead of the game on campus. I was given the same opportunity as any other person on campus.

Sue Choe and her mother at CSU graduation – 1991. (Photo courtesy Sue Choe)

3. Are you bilingual? If so, how many languages do you speak and why did you choose to learn them?

I am bilingual. I speak Korean and English fluently. I did try learning Chinese during my first year of college because I felt China would be the next economic power in the near future.

4. Would you change anything about your life or where you come from? If so, why?

Not much to change. I think I took the normal steps in life to appreciate who I am.

5. What is your favorite thing to tell people about your culture?

Koreans are very diligent and smart. I am proud of the economic growth within Korea in such a short period of time.

Sue Choe during visit to South Korea in 2016. (Photo courtesy Sue Choe)
Sue Choe during visit to South Korea in 2016. (Photo courtesy Sue Choe)

College made me appreciate my diversity and allowed me to learn more about my Korean culture by sharing my culture with others on campus.

It was special to hear that CSU was one of Choe’s main reasons for reconnecting with her heritage.

Given her upbringing and her life, she is very culturally mobile. Moving from Korea to Saudi Arabia to the United States, she had to completely immerse herself in each culture, which impacted her greatly.

For example, she wanted to fit into U.S. culture, so she decided to fully adapt to that culture by leaving hers behind.

Sue Choe is an inspiring example of cultural mobility, fluidity and awareness.

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