SFCM's First Korean Club Sets Down Roots
Founders Eugenia Coe and Alina Kwon hope the new club will help fellow students in the Korean community.
By Alex Heigl
San Francisco can be a lot to take in at first—especially if you're coming from South Korea. That's where SFCM's Korean Club founders Eugenia Coe and Alina Kwon come in.
"We have a lot of Korean students, both international and Korean-American, but we noticed that we don't interact with each other much," Coe said. "And that's such a missed opportunity for collaborations or just getting to know each other, to share culture with some of the Korean-Americans who aren't as familiar with the Korean culture, and vice versa."
Coe, who finished her undergraduate degree in clarinet in 2021 and returned to SFCM to enroll in the Technology and Applied Composition program, continued: "I actually met a lot of Korean international students who also talked about struggling with communication. Or even getting to know people in the school because they thought the language barrier was preventing them from even getting to know people. So we kind of thought of it as, 'Oh, we can bond the Korean-American and the Korean international students together and create more branches for them to meet new people whether it's for friendship or work-related things.'"
As the club evolves, the pair say putting together a program of all-Korean composers and performers is one goal. But right now, their focus is on building community, something that Coe says "was actually really nice to see after our very first meeting; afterward we noticed that the students were talking to each other and introducing themselves to each other like 'oh, hey, I'm a composer, or 'oh, I play this specific instrument.'"
Kwon, who studies with Catherine Payne, said beyond the social connection, the club serves deeper needs for both domestic and international students: "I feel like the Korean-American students want to just know more of their culture and the language and the Korean international students are just like, 'I feel stranded here, so just having someone who can understand me would be such a nice anchor.'"
Because Coe and Kwon both work at SFCM's Student Academic Enrichment Center and get plenty of one-on-one time with students, they know what areas their classmates are seeking help with. "Some are having a hard time communicating to the professors, 'I'm having a harder time and so this is what I need,'" Coe said. "In other cases, it's just about knowing about the MUNI passes, or PDEC grants, or chances for collaboration that they may be missing."
SFCM’s Korean Club is joining a number of other student groups already working to create community at SFCM including the Black Student Union, Latinx Club, and Pride Network. Each group holds meetings, events, and occasionally programs and performs concerts.
"I kind of saw Korean international students, maybe being like, too scared to utilize these things that would be so beneficial for them. And so helping address that is one of the big highs of organizing the club for sure," Kwon said.