Deborah Kim joined the Wheaton College faculty and staff beginning Jan. 12, as director of study abroad for the Center for Global and Experiential Learning. Kim agreed to accept the position halfway through the academic year, filling the position recently left by Annie Nichols.
Global and experiential learning has become an area of increased focus for Wheaton in recent years, as the college has developed an emphasis on this aspect of higher education. GEL’s website emphasizes “learning intercultural competency” and “engaging with peoples, cultures, issues and perspectives different from our own.”
Kim, an alumna of Wheaton College, shared that she is, “excited to come in (to the institution) when the strategic focus is on (study abroad). When I attended Wheaton there was no GEL office or global effort. I think the only programs were Wheaton in England and Wheaton in the Holy Lands.” From that point, the GEL office has expanded to connect with over 60 programs in over 30 different countries.
Kim has many years of experience in study abroad programs, ranging from work at Taylor University to serving as interim vice president and director for student programs at the Council for Christian Colleges & Univerisities which is affiliated with BestSemester in Washington D.C. BestSemester is a program that sends students “around the world through the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities,” according to their website.
During her time at Wheaton, Kim studied history, and stated that although she never would have anticipated such prolonged involvement in global learning. “I always had an interest in global and cross-cultural things.” She said that she expected to be a museum curator, or to pursue another career involving her major. However, she participated in a Student Ministry Partners trip to South Africa through the Office of Christian Outreach.
“I went the month apartheid ended,” she shared of her SMP trip.
Following her graduation from Wheaton, Kim taught English in South Korea for a year, which she said demonstrated the difference between being abroad as a student and as a teacher.
“I was on my own as a teacher. (It showed me that) you’re not always going to be a student so take advantage of it. It’s very different,” said Kim.
After her time in Korea, Kim returned to the Midwest before moving to the East coast with her husband and two daughters, now in fourth and seventh grade.
According to the BestSemester website, CCCU President Shirley V. Hoogstra claims that “Deb’s expertise, wisdom and interpersonal skills have made her an integral part of BestSemester and the CCCU. She will be just right in this new role … She will not only be a great asset to Wheaton, but we feel we will have another good connection at Wheaton in the joint work of getting our students ready for a global world.”
In describing Wheaton’s attitude toward global learning, Kim stated that, “It seems like it’s not just one office; it’s a campus effort.” She shared that she is excited to “come alongside Dr. Laura Montgomery (the Dean of the GEL office), and the other departments.” She expressed that she is excited to help extend opportunities to students.
One of Kim’s greatest takeaways from her time abroad, both during a high school trip to France and her time in South Africa, was the opportunity to do a homestay.
“You are not a tourist, you’re immediately part of someone’s family, and there’s something different about being really immersed. You learn so much about yourself and where you’re from,” she shared.
Kim added that when it comes to experiencing global learning, “It’s not about giving or taking, it’s all about sharing. Part of the process is learning to adapt to everyone’s goals and expectations.”
Kim said she hopes that students will view study abroad as an enhancement and compliment to their Wheaton experience, rather than a separate entity. She would like students to utilize it as a resource, forming the whole package of their time in school.
“A lot of people say it’s their only regret (about college),” she shared about students who do not take the time to participate in cross-cultural programs. “Don’t be that student.”