Education transforms a life

As part of the Aga Khan Foundation Canada’s Together project, the Vancouver Public Library will be hosting an evening of storytelling on May 2. An international Masters student at Simon Fraser University passionate about global development and education opportunities for youth, Anna Kimwill share her journey from Uzbekistan to Korea and to Canada. 

Education is something that drives your life to a different level,” she says.

Global development and empowerment

Anna Kim volunteers as a Development Champion for the Aga Khan Foundation Canada. Established in 1980 in Canada, the foundation is part of a global network of non-profit organizations seeking to improve opportunities for the poor without discriminating against their faith, origin or gender.

“International organizations that support scholarships and help students actually have an impact on a person’s life,” says Kim. “If not for the foundations that created the scholarships, I wouldn’t be here.”

Kim describes her upcoming talk as a story about empowerment. For those who are interested in global development and in raising living standards in developing countries, she wants to use her story as encouragement to get involved. She will also provide practical information on ways to support the cause.

Opportunities and new horizons

Growing up in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Kim dreamed of seeing the world.

“I wanted to be more international and to see other countries, cultures and people,” she says.

Ethnically Korean, Kim longed to experience life in Korea and to learn more about her heritage. However, income differences between developing and developed countries made it impossible for her to afford tuition in Korea. Ultimately, Kim’s determination and good grades helped her get accepted into three universities, and she chose to attend Sogang University as a Masters student in International and Global Studies. Besides waiving her tuition, the university also offered a living stipend. It was crucial to Kim who, at the time, spoke no Korean and had few means to support herself.

“No relatives and no friends in Korea,” recalls Kim with a laugh. “Just a plane ticket and hope for the best!”

Eventually, Kim’s optimism and hard work paid off, and she graduated as valedictorian of her class. She remained in Korea after graduation, developing business in Africa for a Korean multinational company. Ever restless, Kim started looking for her next challenge after a few years.

“I reached a point where I wanted to take the next step,” says Kim. “If I wanted to grow personally and professionally, I needed to challenge myself more and to get more education.”

Taking the next step and helping others

Kim’s next step led her to Vancouver in 2015. She is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Political Science at Simon Fraser University. Kim wants to combine business and government policy.

“My research is on Uzbekistan and so I hope that it would help [the Uzbekistan government] improve policies regarding energy companies coming in to invest,” she says.

Kim believes that work should be meaningful and shouldn’t only revolve around monetary rewards. Her long-term goal is to help others fulfill their dreams through education.

“Even in Canada, there are students from less fortunate families who are also trying to make something of their lives,” she says. “Many people just don’t know who to talk to and what organizations to seek.”

Kim wants to play a part by connecting underprivileged students to foundations and scholarships.

“I understand how it feels when you don’t have resources but you have potential,” she says. “All you need is the right opportunity at the right time. It can change the trajectory of your life.”

Anna Kim will be speaking at the Kitsilano Branch of the Vancouver Public Library at 7 p.m. on May 2.