Recent Alumni Spotlight: Victoria Hanohano-Hong,’11
Posted by Caitlin Joyce on Wednesday, April 10, 2013 at 3:08 PM PDT
My path to Seattle University began with personal and vocational exploration. How very Jesuit!
As a freshman, I was attending culinary school, perfecting the best way to cook a chicken and create a pastry. While there, I realized that for my classmates this was a passion, and what they felt called to do. For me it was fun, a hobby, not what I felt would lead me to a fulfilled life, and not what I was called to do. That’s when I came to Seattle University.
I knew of Seattle University because my sister was a student. When I transferred there as a sophomore, it felt right. As if I were coming home. It’s where I became aware of God’s presence. From that moment I longed to build that relationship. Choosing theology as a major was a way that I could selfishly pursue my own spiritual questions while earning a bachelor’s degree. One of the memories that stands out most from my time at Seattle U was the Easter Vigil mass in my senior year where I was baptized Catholic.
Most who study theology are expected to go on and minister somewhere, maybe join the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. But I took a different path; currently I reside in Korea, where I teach English. The faith and trust in God that I developed at SU gave me the strength and courage to follow God’s call across the world. And the only thing I could think when I got off the plane at Incheon International Airport was, “Here I am. Now what?”
I remembered a professor once telling me that if I wanted to see the face of God, I should work with the poor. If I was looking for direction that seemed like a good place to start. While my elementary school students are definitely in a very low tax bracket, I’m not sure those are the type of poor she intended. But the usage of poor in that statement was vague and I thought, “Maybe this is why I’m here!”
Despite wanting to see a confirmation of my calling in these kids, they made it difficult. During cold season they sneezed and coughed all over without covering their mouths, and as a germophobe, that was a struggle. During the hot summer, they would come into class after recess smelling strongly of sweat because deodorant is relatively unheard of in this country. As a super smeller, that was another obstacle to seeing them as something greater than myself. I tried and tried for a while, but couldn’t understand why God had called me here.
Then one day in self-reflection, a very Jesuit thought struck me. In my theology classes we had focused on Jesus the teacher. He had tried to convey difficult concepts to a community that included children. Here I was in Korea, teaching children, and looking out on a sea of faces who often had no clue what I was saying. I imagined that we must have had similar experiences, looking out at those faces, hoping and praying to see that unmistakable look of dawning comprehension. When I saw that look of a light coming from their eyes and realized that they actually understood what I said, I was filled with joy and realized that I had my answer. This is why I attended SU, why I studied theology, and why I was called to Korea.
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