Intercultural Understanding: Finding My Path

Submission by Chris Kim, Wellness Peer and PPEC Representative

I came to UBC to become a doctor. I think I told myself I wanted to help people, but that sounds too altruistic to be me. The real reason had to do with two big influences on my life: Parents and society. They formed an unrivaled partnership of direct and indirect pressure; my teenage mind was convinced.

All the little things in university drove me nuts. Why couldn’t I do laundry? Why had I just realized how competitive med school was? Why didn’t I learn anything useful in high school? Looking back, all I did was think about myself.

I have grown a lot in the past 4 years and I’ve found something I really love to do; fortunately, it doesn’t involve med school. This development came from a mental adjustment; I started thinking more openly and with greater empathy, which accelerated my learning and propelled me to try many new things. The greatest impact it had was on my understanding of diversity. People always say diversity is important and it’s part of the Canadian way, but diversity is commonly seen as a barrier. Not just ethnic diversity, but diversity in all forms. Like personality differences in teams, ‘how do we include that quiet guy?’

Instead of seeing it as a barrier, I’m starting to see diversity as a learning opportunity. Any differences in opinion, beliefs, and experiences are chances to mutually learn. This idea of intercultural understanding can be difficult at times, but being open-minded and seeing diversity in a new light has made me a better person. In keeping with this mindset and in the spirit of UBC Thrive, I have taken on a couple new things the past month like mentorship and stress breaks. Having mentors helped me realize I learn best verbally and through conversation. The stress breaks is an idea I got from a friend, where I stop thinking about everything and enjoy nature for 15 minutes. Both have helped my well-being and both are a result of thinking interculturally.

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