For Yooneui Joo, the trials and tribulations of moving to a brand new country was a daunting experience at first. From feeling lonesome countless times to being treated differently, Joo experienced more lows than highs during the start of her journey.

Born in South Korea and growing up in Seoul, Joo, 21, barely knew a lick of English. She did know two things, however.

Joo knew she had a love for jewelry design and had a desire to experience different cultures and different people.

“I didn’t just want to stay in Korea because I was curious about people from other countries. I wanted to learn English because it’s such a universal language,” Joo stated.

Once Joo was done with middle school, she decided to pack her bags and move to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where she would stay with her uncle and attend high school under the British curriculum. For Joo, this was her first step in learning the English language.

After a year and a half, Joo decided to move again. This time, to Tacoma, Washington where she would finish off high school.

“In the beginning, it was complete culture shock moving to a brand new country,” Joo said. “I felt homesick and since I wasn’t from here, I was treated like I didn’t belong. But in the long run, looking back, it made me study English harder to be able to communicate with people.”

While in Tacoma, Joo constantly felt lonely. She had no family around and no one close enough for her to confide in. Joo eventually became friends with one of her high school teachers, Julie Rust, who offered Joo to move in with her and her family. Reluctant at first, Joo accepted the offer, as she couldn’t stand her current living situation.

Joo and the Rust family became close over time.

“They treated me like family and they treated me like a daughter,” Joo stated. “I still call them mom and dad to this day.”

Fresh off of her high school graduation, Rust wanted Joo to continue staying with her and the family while she attended college. But, Joo was persuaded by her uncle’s friend to attend PCC.

“Rust made a list of nearby colleges that I could just drive to, but, my uncle’s friend attended PCC for jewelry design, something I was always interested in and convinced me to give PCC a shot,” said Joo. “The Rust family was really supportive on my decision. They even rented a truck and drove all the way down to Pasadena to help me move my furniture!”

The fall of 2016 was Joo’s first semester at PCC, who was looking to follow in her uncle’s friends footsteps in becoming a successful jewelry designer. After her first semester of doing a bunch of art classes related to jewelry design, Joo realized that there weren’t many opportunities for international students looking to find work in the jewelry design field.

After talking with her teachers and counselor, Joo made the switch to graphic design.

“Every company has graphic designers which means I’ll have more opportunities and hopefully be able to stay in America,” Joo said. “I want to stay here as long as I can because I love it here.”

Although close to transferring out of PCC, Joo wants to take a year off from school to gain some work experience. Although an international student, she is able to find work through the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program.

Joo’s main focus is to work for a jewelry related company as a graphics designer because she can learn about jewelry while also gaining experience as a graphics designer.

In terms of Joo’s dream school, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) is the place she wants to ultimately attend.

“Many of the artists that I like graduated or taught at RISD,” stated Joo. “Their work is amazing and they are people I aspire to become one day.”

Yooneui’s Instagram

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