Kim Pham-Spósito recently graduated from the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) with a Masters Degree in Business Administration. Her undergraduate focus was in Finance and Marketing. During her years in college and graduate school, she was involved in many organizations as members and officers. Among those, Kim was the President of the International Student Council for two non-consecutive terms. She was also crowned the Miss Asian UCO ’08-’09 and went on to become Miss Asian Oklahoma the following year. Since then, she has been coming back to take on the role of Director for two different pageants at UCO. She now resides in Edmond, Oklahoma and plans to move to California in the near future.
I was born in Vietnam, a beautiful country in Southeast Asia. Like many other parents in developing countries, mine wanted to send me overseas so I could work towards advancing my education. The opportunity finally arose six months before my seventeenth birthday, so there I was – a 16-year-old girl with her gigantic suitcases – leaving my family for the first time to go half way across the world to be a senior in high school. Things were inevitably hard at the beginning, but ultimately, with the help of parents, my host family, and friends, I found my own way to change things for the better. It has since been more than nine years, and the journey has been nothing short of wonderful, all thanks to what I am about to share with you.
If you or someone you know has studied abroad, especially for an extended period of time, then you know it is not necessarily the easiest thing to do in the world. First, there are generally language barriers; then there are culture differences, not to mention the fact that you are by yourself in a completely new and different world. Things are bound to go wrong or be hard, or both. However, not many realize how much power we have as individuals to change all these realities. The least each of us can do is to not let any of the above difficulties determine our time abroad. Instead, we could make friends, go out, and be involved. Some of us were born with the ability to naturally step up and take the lead. I would like to think I was also born with that wonderful trait, but unfortunately, I was not. I would not consider myself an extreme extrovert, either. However, I learned to push through, and just like that, leadership was my answer to these problems.
Do not be alarmed. Leadership comes in many shapes and forms, and not all have to be too significant, or “larger than life.” You do not have to go in thinking you would change the world. You do not even have to take a massive leap; in fact, slow and steady baby steps will at times be just as good. During my first year in America – my senior year at a local high school, I was a member of just one organization. This small step allowed me to adapt and have a basic understanding of involvement and leadership. As I went on to a community college, eventually four-year university, and ultimately graduate school, that single number quickly grew in both quantity and quality: I was not only a member, but also an officer for various organizations on and off campus. Some of them had thousands of members, and some had less than ten. Regardless, they all had their own purposes and activities, and I was proud to be a part of those meaningful experiences. Looking back, I am more than content at what I have done, not just because the way I did what I did, but because I actually had the courage to make everything a reality in the first place.
So, take it from me. Step outside and listen to your own callings. You will also find your ways to overcome all obstacles, all the while becoming your own version of extraordinary.