International student works with generations of Korean immigrants

Shijung Shim is a self-proclaimed “1.5” Korean-American. Moving from Korea to Seattle with her family as a teenager, she received her middle and high school education here in the States. She remained stateside for her bachelor’s degree in psychology but returned to Korea for her masters in pastoral care and counseling. One particular GTU professor, Lewis Rambo, helped convince Shim to earn a Ph.D. here in Interdisciplinary Studies.

The area of Interdisciplinary Studies (IDS) has become a haven for students concentrating on Practical Theology. Shim says IDS allows her to focus on pastoral care in a Korean context while drawing on the resources of the Religion and Psychology area. She is analyzing how raising a child impacts the mother’s religious experiences, especially in situations where the child steps outside the family’s expectations. Traditionally, studies on Korean-American family structures focus on the second generation (immigrant) child but Shim has chosen to focus on the first generation mother who spans both cultures.

She has acquired some firsthand experience on this topic working with children and families at the Korean First United Methodist Church (KFUMC) in Fremont. Shim has enjoyed watching the children learn and mature over the past 3 years. Her own experiences help bridge the gap between English speaking children and their Korean speaking parents. Shim’s time at KFUMC has led her to consider pursuing a Masters of Divinity and, possibly, full-time church work after graduating from the GTU. Connecting faith with the Korean community, especially families, seems to be her calling.

Last year, Boyung Lee, Associate Professor of Educational Ministries at Pacific School of Religion, introduced her to Pacific, Asian, and North American Asian Women in Theology and Ministry (PANAAWTM, pronounced “pan autumn”). “I didn’t even know groups like this existed,” Shim says. This summer, she attended two different gatherings focusing on Asian/Asian-American theology, praxis, and ministry, PANAAWTM and the Asian Theological Summer Institute (ATSI). Shim claims both gave her an added sense of community and camaraderie. These gatherings also were encouraging because she met other Asians doing similar work and, she says, “My own work felt more important.”