At Last (After 17 Years)

On July 2, 2018, I received in the mail the approval notice for my I-485 – Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status; I have officially become a permanent resident of the United States!

I was born in South Korea and began studying in North America in late 1999, at age ten. After nearly a couple of years in Vancouver, British Columbia, I moved to the US, in 2001. I spent much of my adolescence complaining about having to go to the Embassy of the United States in Seoul and change my visa status each time I moved to a new location as a typical foreigner when I grew up in America and felt culturally American. Only when I accepted my role as an international recruitment specialist for the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK) just under three years ago did I see the value in having been through every possible step an international student could undergo, from F-1 to Optional Practical Training (OPT) to H-1B to, now, green card. I could educate and emotionally connect to many international students from Korea and other countries with my unique extensive global background.

While on OPT from 2014 to 2015, I was repeatedly misinformed my opportunity to be sponsored for a work visa had passed because I missed the deadline. Regardless, I continued to feel I would somehow find a way to remain in the US and was prompted to Google this subject myself, right after which I read I still had a chance to be sponsored by a university and/or research-based institution. I immediately went on HigherEdJobs and found my current job with UNK that had just been posted. Reading the description, I had confidence God would send me here, and I was soon hired, during the 60-day grace period of OPT. In June 2016, although no colleague really understood the green card process, I proactively contacted the university lawyer, which led to the eventual agreement of my office to sponsor me and pay my application fees. I do take pride, not in a boastful way, in that I earned my permanent place in America through merit rather than being freely handed the privilege. The new presidential administration did delay my application process many months with the addition of an interview and even kept me stuck in the country for a year while my travel document was pending. My medical exams, lasting one year, had only two weeks left until expiration by the time of the interview, which saved me hundreds of dollars; my medical insurance does not cover immigration-related fees.

Following my interview, the final step of this 17-year journey, on June 27, 2018, either a flying object or a dishonest person left a ding in my car, which I noticed upon return home. Satan always pokes at you with petty matters before something great happens, so I did not bother being upset over this issue. Less than a week later, I was notified of my status change to a permanent resident.

I thank Jesus, first and foremost; His timing is always perfect, whether we admit or not initially, and our job is to simply trust Him. I also would like to thank my employer, UNK, for allowing this to happen. Next, US citizenship!

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One Year Down

First business card!

First business card!

A little over a year ago today, I joined full-time the staff of the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK) as an international recruitment specialist. Neither had I worked on a real-paying job nor recruited on any platform, major or minor. I felt nervous momentarily initially but then reminded myself even David did not count himself worthy to be anointed by God through Samuel, boosting my confidence; He decided to use me, and nothing can get in the way of His plans for me. I was merely delighted to finally have the opportunity to pour my workaholic and goal-driven energy into building my career from interning unpaid for two nonprofit organizations simultaneously for almost a year.

NAFSA 2016

God placed me in the Midwest, which had not once crossed my mind prior to my discovering this position availability on HigherEdJobs.com, for a reason. Believing this, I solely cared about pleasing Him, executing my tasks to the best of my ability regardless of results, and letting my neighbors see His work through me; I prayed I progress only by and in His will. Even though new to the recruiting world, from the first day, I knew step-by-step what I had to do in order to commence and move forward, pleasantly surprising many of my colleagues. Recruiting takes time to simply lay a foundation and additional time to begin receiving clients: students, in my case. I rapidly formed, reinstated, and renewed partnerships with numerous academic institutions and agencies in Korea, and I continued to expand my regions of specialty and covered also Nepal, India, Bangladesh, China, Taiwan, and the United States. In most universities I have visited, I became virtual friends with the representatives, many of whom send UNK students primarily to help me personally score points. In less than a year, I brought to campus 66 students, a combination of degree-seeking, visiting, exchange, language, and short-term, a transparent miracle especially for someone with no prior background in recruiting, and I have faith that number will only multiply each semester. Every time an individual comments on the constant positive outcomes I produce, I use the stage to glorify His name; I am just a hammer of my Carpenter.

The Kearney Hub

Upon arrival at UNK, I had no choice but to educate myself on Korean history. A vital and prideful past Korea shares with Kearney, Nebraska, had been virtually buried for almost a century until I unveiled the story. The Omaha World-Herald, along with local newspapers, published my interview and research paper on the topic, and from that exposure, I occasionally received requests to speak in various venues, requiring me to learn at a minimum the summary of the profound 5,000-year history of Korea, beginning Gojoseon, through the dynasties, to today.

Above all, He has been using me to rescue His lost sheep. In the first short-term program I directed, the Holy Spirit in me constantly made me say to one student what he needed to hear spiritually, resulting in his accepting Jesus towards the end of three weeks. Many neighbors were encouraged to rely more heavily on God by my faith. I half-jokingly told my close ones, “I’m not an international recruiter. I’m a Heaven recruiter.” I understood my purpose in Nebraska to be more than simply recruiting international students.

Presenting at the annual Family History Fair

In spite of all the positive, this journey has been the furthest thing from easy, and I am still fighting daily to overcome my current adversity. I face no struggle fulfilling and even shattering my occupation expectations; however, like in most of my hardships, my trouble stems from people. In the past few months, I dealt with enough to consider walking out of my job several times; if anyone is aware of how much remaining in America and ultimately becoming a permanent resident and then a citizen means to me, he or she would understand how much I must have gone through mentally for abandoning my work visa, relinquishing the green card process, and leaving the States to even enter my head. Loneliness outside work certainly has not helped. Nevertheless, I had faith He will not let me be tempted beyond what I can bear, but when I am tempted, He will also provide a way out so that I can endure it, giving me courage, strength, and patience to stick around another day.

Global Leaders Scholarship Program and World Leaders Camp

I have not the slightest clue how much longer I will be with UNK. If my environment turns healthier, I will likely stay longer than if not, but I have already experienced countless times God always guides and directs my path. If He tells me to stay, even if I try with all in my power to leave, I will stay. If He tells me to move on, no matter how much I might like to linger, I will be carried over to my next destination. Until then, I will continue to work on appreciating what I have rather than complaining about what I lack. How could I not be grateful for a job that lets me travel to Korea twice a year and stay with my family while working, an answer to years of my mother’s prayers? I acknowledge His plans far exceed my plans, and nothing will proceed by my will but only His.

Long Road to Call Home

My first time setting foot in Nebraska for my new duty as an international recruiter, I was struck by a variety of unfamiliar incidents, both positive and negative, since my arrival on September 14, 2015. As much as I tried to focus solely on executing my new position to the best of my ability and changing the face of the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK) among Asian students, I also had to take time and be patient to be acclimated and call Nebraska my new “home.”

In addition to spending countless hours and days on assembling furniture and settling in, I desperately sought the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to renew my expired driver’s license from Georgia into one from Nebraska. A female clerk at the DMV insisted I must retake every driver’s test as if I had never driven; whenever I tried to explain she was misinformed, she condescendingly cut me off in front of strangers in line behind me. I came back the next morning, prepared for both written and road tests having reviewed possible questions for seven hours, and proved she indeed had her “facts” mixed; I only took a written test on which I missed one question to earn a temporary copy of a Nebraska license. On Saturday of the same week, I bought a 2016 Honda Accord at Honda of Lincoln. My first car, I promised to take care of her like my “girlfriend.” However, on my way back to Kearney with her an hour after purchase, I ran into two consecutive near-severe accidents. A clumsy lady perpendicular to my right shoulder swerved her car into my lane without any warning, forcing me to veer from my own lane away from her and towards rumble strips to keep her from destroying my brand new car. An inch away from a major crash, I honked at her twice, first out of fear and second inexplicable rage, and her careless expression as if nothing had happened riled me up even more. Thirty minutes following, a truck driver turned on his left indicator and immediately invaded my lane as well, and with my right shoulder lined up on his truck tail likely in his blind spot, I abruptly hit the brake from driving roughly eighty miles per hour; fortunately, I saw no car behind me. I was praying and singing worship songs during these close calls, and His angels protected me.

I ordered so much food, and this benevolent couple sneakily paid for me!

I ordered so much food, and this benevolent couple sneakily paid for me!

Aware of my running history, my colleagues suggested I try a popular lengthy bike trail that connects to campus. I felt peaceful on the course until I ran past an immense wild snake; I saw no warning sign of the wildlife, and upon encounter, I jumped higher than Michael Jordan ever did in his prime. I quickly noticed the benevolent nature of Nebraskans. Many volunteered to help and embrace strangers with an angelic smile and open arms. After my first week of work, I went to the renowned Gourmet House Japanese Cuisine. Waiting for five minutes to be seated, I conversed with a couple and a man, who suggested to me what to order. As the couple walked out following dinner, the girlfriend asked if I enjoyed my meal. Once the two exited, a waiter tapped me from behind and whispered, “The couple paid for you.” Unaccustomed to people buying me food, I did not know how to respond but sprint to the two. Hearing I had just moved, the couple wanted me to “enjoy [my] experience in Nebraska.” The next evening at Ruby Tuesday, another couple came from behind and handed a five-dollar-discount coupon to me. “Nebraskans are spoiling me!” I jokingly reacted.

In the midst of this extraordinary impression of Nebraskans, I also had an entertaining experience with perhaps the most psychotic individual to ever come across my life. A coworker introduced me to a shy and socially awkward kid who had just graduated from UNK, and after kindly greeting him with a smile, I completely forgot about him. A week later, he arbitrarily looked me up on Facebook, stalked all of my recent posts, wrote a deranged status about me—including my name and position at UNK, where I worked, and my family background—and insulted me via message, crying he does not want to be associated with me and telling me not to add him on the social medium. I had apparently offended him with my God-praising statuses, as he passionately despises Him and Christians. I had to look at some photos of the lunatic and our mutual friends to even vaguely recall him, and how he knew about my family hilariously perplexes me. Nonetheless, one cannot try to understand or rationalize a psychopath, so I simply laughed, especially since the keyboard warrior would never have the guts to even pretend to acknowledge me in person.

I prioritize my job over every other matter but my Father. After over ten crucial meetings the first week of work, I finally received my school email address this Thursday. I straightaway contacted tens of both partner and potential-partner institutions, some of which responded and forwarded my email to superiors of their schools by the next morning. On Friday, while resuming this task, a UNK technician suddenly changed my email address because he had accidentally given me an address owned by another person. I went into panic mode, but thankfully, one call from my boss to the technician resolved the problem. I have also been facing a barrage of issues with Wells Fargo since my registration with the bank, forcing me to visit its nearest location and contact customer service easily over ten times for a minimum of seven hours just to be misled thirty times since my arrival.

The first several weeks in the Midwest certainly felt like a roller-coaster ride. I was welcomed by repeated unprecedented episodes, including being approached by an excited bold girl who described me as “really cute” and wanted my number. Though mostly joyful and content, I still do not feel entirely settled, especially with some of the aforesaid recent unnecessary and discomforting occurrences. Still green to the region, I trust my Father, who brought me here, has plans for me and will lead me to the path of His will.