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  • Writer's pictureSherry

Katie Ryu - Swarthmore Lucky to Have Her

Updated: Mar 16, 2022

I met Katie Ryu in the fall of 2021 as she began her first year at Swarthmore College located in Pennsylvania near Philadelphia. Thrive Scholars helps high-achieving diverse students, such as Katie in a multitude of ways as they prepare for and enter college. They also connect the students to mentors such as me. I am a mentor to Katie and it is definitely a two-way learning experience. She is a delightful, very smart, and an engaging first-generation Korean American from Southern California. She loves the adventure of going away to school and soaking up all the experiences of the first year in college.

Even though this semester has started on-line, there is a plan for everyone to be back on campus in early February. She is excited to have a varied slate of classes and is currently oriented to English Literature and Environmental Studies but at Swarthmore there is no need to declare a major until the end of the Sophomore year. Katie loves that flexibility and Swarthmore, a liberal arts college, is known for the diversity of courses and learning experiences. They are proud to give students the knowledge, insight skills and experience to become leaders for the common good. There is an orientation to “doing good in the world” and finding your passion.

I was excited to re-connect with Katie after the holidays and learn more about her 2022 goals. This is your future talent. Meet Katie Ryu.

Sherry: Tell me what you most enjoyed about your first semester at college?

Katie: This was my first time away from home and although I missed it, I really enjoyed the greater sense of freedom. For me, going away to college was about having to try new things and grow on my own as well as meet new people. Moving across the country was a big step and I listened to my inner voice and said this would be my to truly challenge myself. Even in the early college application process, I remember I dreamed about going to the East Coast for school and learning a lot about myself through that.

Sherry: What are you learning about yourself in this exciting chapter?

Katie: I take a lot of pride in my identify as a first-generation student, in being the first in my family to attend college or university in the U.S. But as proud as I am, I was also nervous at the beginning of my college journey. I knew I lacked the resources and support some of my peers might have grown up with and continue to benefit immensely from. But I think I’m learning that I am capable of pulling through even when things are difficult and I’m facing high-pressure conditions. It is important to me to have faith in my capabilities and go for what I want. I do recall that I found myself in situations dominated by older students and mostly Caucasian men, and I would feel a little intimidated. But if there’s ever a time to push myself and push boundaries, it’s in those circumstances. I actually think that part of the pushing and exploration eventually led me to look at the field of environmental studies in a new light, and it’s becoming something I’s increasingly invested in.

Sherry: How has it influenced your thoughts about career?

Katie: Swarthmore is a liberal arts college and I was interested in their broad areas of study. I did not want to confine myself to one area this early in my college experience. I am seeing so many fields to learn more about and I really appreciate that. I most definitely have a passion for writing and storytelling, and I am learning that there are so many ways to apply my writing skills, so that is part of the exploration here for me. I see there is already so much potential to use those skills in a variety of areas of study.

Sherry: What is your goal over the next six months?

Katie: On a personal level, I want to challenge myself and I know I want to be productive and actively have a positive impact on my surrounding communities. As I think about being a good well-rounded student, I plan to focus on my studies and have a successful second semester of college. I’ve also developed an awesome first-gen, low income, or FLI, community here at Swarthmore which I think is important to maintain and strengthen. Another goal is to keep writing and growing in my writing, particularly as a contributor to our online music publication. I have not studied music and I don’t play an instrument, but I am deeply interested in lyricism and fascinated with music as a form of creation.

Another aspect of my goals this year is to identify an internship or summer project where I can dedicate time and energy, contribute and learn from others. I value the power of collaboration when learning something new. That is important to me this year.

I am entirely open to where this opportunity might be. Of course I am learning about the beauty of east coast seasons. Ok, it is a little cold right now.

I could apply my writing and research skills to an internship in entertainment, social media, environmental studies, or even something like an Asian American-non-profit organization. I bring experiences in the importing and exporting world, having aided my father during high school by translations between Korean and English, writing emails and preparing presentations.

Sherry: As you head back to school, what are most looking forward to?

Katie: Getting back to the classroom and enjoying just being there; I’m honestly excited to learn, get to work after resting over winter break, and be in that college environment again.

Final Thoughts

What a wonderful perspective on learning. Katie brings a refreshing well thought out perspective on life at college and her quest for learning and community. We see this from young college students to early career professionals just starting out. Their resilience, creative spirits and curiosity are inspiring. If you would like to meet Katie and bring her into your organization for an amazing summer experience for both of you, just reach out to her at

I highly recommend that you get to know Katie! (6) Katie S. Ryu | LinkedIn

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