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Listen in: Sharon Park's UCF graduation got canceled because of COVID. Now, she's back in Orlando to walk across the stage in a first for her family.

Photo: Pixabay
Photo: Pixabay

Sharon Park graduated from UCF with her bachelor’s degree in engineering in 2019 and her master’s in material science in 2020, and she’s returning to her alma mater this weekend. Park and 1,700 other alumni are participating in a makeup graduation on Friday after in-person ceremonies got canceled due to COVID last year. 

WMFE spoke with Park about what the ceremony means to her and to her family, who immigrated from South Korea to Orlando.

Read the full interview below or listen to it by clicking on the clip at the top of the page. 

Sharon: I'm coming back and kind of coming out of the fall semester here at Hopkins to, to participate in the ceremony really, for my parents. For my bachelor's ceremony, unfortunately, they weren't able to be there. I had, my grandmother in South Korea was sick. So they flew there.

And now for my master's, this is, you know, kind of a, this is a really big thing for my family, because I'll be the first person in my entire family to achieve a master's degree. So I'm really coming back to kind of do that rite of passage to walk across the stage to get this recognition, not only for myself, but to kind of show my parents like, this is the weight of your sacrifices, you know, and it's a way for me to show my gratitude to them.

Danielle: You know, what's next for you? Because you've already done so many amazing things. But what are you most excited about at Johns Hopkins? And then even after once you get your PhD, what are your plans?

Sharon: I've always been interested in space exploration. I hope after my PhD, I can work as a research scientist at either a national lab, or places like NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and things like that and really help humanity push the limits on what's possible with space exploration.

Danielle: Is there anything you would say to students listening to this, who like you are first-generation students, and, you know, facing some of the similar challenges that you faced any words of wisdom for them?

Sharon: I would say to them, I know how isolating it can be, and how frustrating it can be. To kind of feel alone in that process to feel like, you know, everyone around you has these resources that somehow you don't have. But I would say that to them, find your people, find your people that are like you, whether it's just friends in a class, whether it's in a research lab, if you look hard enough, there are people like you, who are willing to help and who can help you grow as a person.

And just to be passionate about what you what you do, find something that you're passionate about, because when you find something that you're really passionate about, despite all the hardships and you know, isolation or, you know, anxieties that you may have, you will eventually use that passion to kind of fuel you through to achieve the goals that you want to achieve.

Danielle: And I guess my last question is, is there anything you'd like to say to your mom and dad?

Sharon: Oh, of course. So to my mom and dad, obviously, I can't, in any capacity, thank them enough for the sacrifices that they've made both for me and my sister. I know that growing up, especially sometimes my mom wasn't around as much because she was working so much. And they both expressed to me kind of feelings of regret or feelings of wanting to do more, but not but I really want them to know that. They did more than enough and I would not have it any other way. I think things that I went through the lessons that I've learned from them have propelled me to get to this point, and hard not to get emotional talking about them, but that I love them and everything that I do is to make them proud.

Danielle Prieur is WMFE's education reporter.
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