Starting at a new school is hard, let alone a new school in a new country. However, freshman Mina Kwon has risen to the challenge. She moved from Korea to the Hawaii to attend high school at HBA this year, leaving behind her immediate family and all things familiar, including her friends and a pet dog. With just over four months of freshman year behind her, Kwon has already made quite an impact in the school community. To start, she is the first HBA student to get a perfect score on a Math Team competition.

“I just like math,” she replied when asked about her favorite classes. “There is no special reason but I think it is really interesting.” Kwon also enjoys Japanese and Social Studies. She said learning Japanese has been a fun experience, and her curiosity about how American society works is what makes her interested in Social Studies.

Kwon resides locally with her cousin, Kylie Takamatsu, also an HBA freshman, and her family. Upon arriving at HBA, Kwon was immediately struck by the differences in school routines. “[The bell] schedule and having to look for classrooms were the most significant changes for me,” she said. In Korea, students have shorter class periods and usually remain in their homerooms while teachers would come to them for class. Also, the school day at HBA starts earlier than her Korean school. One difference that Kwon is thankful for is that school life is much less stressful in Hawaii. In Korea, she explained, the pressure of exams and rankings is overwhelming and there is no time for extracurricular activities. “[Here,] I can enjoy my school life more and it is also good to build relationships with others by joining various clubs,” she said. 

Kwon has joined the Math Team, Core Group, Coloring Cafe Club, and Contemporary Band Club. She also plans to join the Korea Club. She started taking bass guitar lessons and decided to join the chapel band, which plays weekly at chapels.

While she has made many new friends at HBA, Kwon still misses her middle school girlfriends from her all-girls middle school. She fondly remembers late-night study sessions with them, where they took breaks by singing karaoke and eating spicy rice cakes. Although her middle school life was stressful, having friends to share it with made it special.

As she finishes up a busy first semester, Kwon shared that her goals for the year are simple: “My reason for coming to HBA was to improve my English skills from the beginning, so my goal is to be more fluent in English. But I also want to get good grades.”