Sunday, March 29

UCLA student shares experiences from world travel

Min Woo Sun, a first-year economics and international development studies, homeschooled himself and traveled the world after his high school shut down. Sidhaant Shah / Daily Bruin

Min Woo Sun did not pay for tutoring classes to supplement his education when his South Korea high school shut down.

Instead, he homeschooled himself and traveled the world.

Sharing a meal cooked over a campfire and a night sleeping in the Sahara Desert with Bedouins changed his perception on traveling, said Sun, a first-year economics and international development studies student. Sun has visited more than 30 countries in Asia, Europe and Africa since he was in the second grade.

“Before, I would want to go to as many countries as possible,” Sun said. “Now, I prefer to go to one country, enjoy it, meet the people, taste the food.”

Sun has visited the home of Croatian acquaintances, admired Gaudi’s architecture in Barcelona, and stood at the gates of Auschwitz. He met children his own age who had to beg for food on the side of the street and remembers asking his mom why that was so.

Yeon Soon Chung, Sun’s mom, said she preferred to spend money on cultural and international experiences rather than tutoring to teach her son open-mindedness and how to overcome different sorts of challenges. 

Sun faced what he said was his biggest difficulty when his high school, Indianhead International School, shut down during his sophomore year.

Dennis Trujillo, Sun’s high school teacher, remembered Sun’s optimism despite troubles at the school.

“We were nearing the end, and students didn’t want to participate in activities,” Trujillo said. “We had an outdoor spring festival, and (Sun) put on a little concert with others and really regenerated school spirit.”

Rather than transferring to another school with his friends, Sun decided to teach himself at home and graduate a year early.

He took online classes from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln in economics, American history and entrepreneurship. Managing his own schedule allowed him to read books, walk outside and play guitar in the afternoon, Sun said.

“I learned so much more than from traditional academics,” Sun said of his traveling and homeschooling.

Now, Sun is learning to make the United States his home. He is involved in several clubs on campus, such as Amnesty International, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the Olive Tree Initiative and the undergraduate social sciences and humanities research journal “Aleph.”

Sun said he thinks his inexperience with little cultural ticks sets him apart.

“It’s just a facade,” Sun said, laughing. “I didn’t know what ‘swag’ was. My friends had to teach me the fist bumps and handshakes. I went to my first football game last week.”

Sun will be going to Ghana over winter break to volunteer in a microfinance program. He is also planning on learning Arabic and visiting the Middle East next summer.

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