Winter is strange in California. All the songs and movies paint winter as an icy wonderland, but here in Fresno, it hasn’t snowed since 1998. Fresno isn’t the only place I have lived where we never got a white Christmas. I was born in Los Angeles, but I spent the early part of my childhood in Seoul, South Korea. Seeing snow in that city was a big deal. I remember one year when we woke up and were amazed to find a white blanket of snow covering the ground outside. This wasn’t the first time I’d seen snow, but the memory sticks out in my mind. There wasn’t a lot of snow, but my brother and I were still excited to run out of the apartment and make a snowman. It lasted for about an hour before the sun came back out and melted everything away.
The next time I saw a lot of snow was after my family moved to the United States. We were living in Boston and the winter was so bad, we got snowed in. My brother and I had to dig ourselves out so we could get to school in the morning. The experience was a big shock to us. This was during our first year living in America, and it was one of the many times I realized that living in this new country was going to be even more different than I had imagined. I was 7 when we moved back to the United States. My brother and I both had mixed feelings about the whole thing. I was so young that I wasn’t fully cognizant of what was going on. My brother was 10, so his experience was different because he had more memories of our life in South Korea. Though I was still very young, I do remember being struck by how different everything was. The people were different, the food was different, and even the schools were different. When I went to school in Seoul, the students all sat according to an alternating boy-girl seating chart and focused entirely on doing school work. When I walked into my first class in America, I was shocked to see all the kids sitting on the carpet, reading books together. Of course, the language was different, too. Though I took English classes in Korea, I wasn’t great at it when we moved, but I learned soon enough. It was my mom’s hope and dream to come to America.
Back in the early ’90s when we moved, Seoul was a very different place than it is today. Once we were in the United States, my mom had to raise my brother and me as a single parent, and she worked hard to give us the advantages provided by this country. My identity and the trajectory of my life were shaped by this move. Everything about who I am as a person, a musician, and an instructor stems from the fact that I moved from Seoul to Boston. The last time I visited Seoul was in 2013, and after I saw how much the city had changed from when I was a kid, I started to think about how different my life would have been had my family stayed in South Korea. I wouldn’t have the friends and colleagues I know today, and I wouldn’t have the conservatory were it not for moving to the United States. I know my life would be less fulfilling if I wasn’t able to teach music, and though the transition had been difficult, I wouldn’t change a thing.