Transforming Challenges into Opportunities

SehYeon Park loves a challenge. From moving to a new country to being the first in her family to attend college she has already conquered many and doesn't appear to be stopping anytime soon.

Portrait of SehYeon Park

Born in South Korea, SehYeon Park moved to Sacramento, California, with her family when she was 10. Her brother had hoped to attend college, but had to join the workforce to help support the family. “I grew up really aware of the sacrifices my family made,” Park says. Being a first-generation immigrant—and the first in her family to pursue a degree—has been challenging, but Park, a third-year policy studies major in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, credits those challenges with helping her maximize her Syracuse University experience.

When the department chair was looking to design a new course, Park pitched an idea informed by her childhood. As the most proficient English speaker in her home, she grew up helping her parents navigate essential processes, such as filing taxes. The course Park proposed—now an official offering—allows students to gain experience in a range of tax and personal finance, spreadsheet and database applications. It is gratifying, Park explains, to help peers gain practical skills and certifications that strengthen their resumes. 

Park’s past led to her most meaningful experiences at Syracuse University. “I felt really lost my first semester,” she says. “I didn’t have the family background to give me insight into how to handle college.” To challenge herself, she became an orientation leader and in that role found the friendships she cherishes to this day. “At Syracuse I found the community I was seeking my entire life,” she says. “Friends, professors, mentors and community members have steered me so positively and made me who I am.” 

Park embraces opportunities to contribute on campus. She participates in many organizations, such as the National Honor Fraternity, which promotes student involvement with the community. One of her most rewarding roles is membership in the Forever Orange Student Alumni Council. “I knew Syracuse had a great alumni community, but I have been truly surprised by how much alumni go out of their way to help students,” she says. And she looks forward to joining ranks with the many young alumni she’s met who are “full of passion and really bleeding orange!”

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