Student Profile

James Paik
James Paik '16
Wilmette, IL

Larry and Connie Siegel Odyssey Scholar Spotlight: 2015–16

“I am grateful for the friends I have made, and for the knowledge I have accrued. Thanks to your generous contributions, I feel like I am going to graduate with memories, experiences, and relationships that I will never forget.”

What did you do this past summer? What are the most striking differences between your life during the summer and your life at UChicago?

I spent this past summer in Hyde Park as a UCIHP Potter Fellow in Community and Social Medicine. I interned at a public health initiative focused on reducing the academic achievement gap between children of varying socioeconomic backgrounds. I also attended professional development seminars on prominent topics in public health, and I also studied for the MCAT. Life in Hyde Park is much quieter during the summer, and the pace was a little more relaxed.

Tell us about your academic interests.

I am a psychology major with a minor in biological sciences. My academic interests vary but for the most part they share the common theme of health and wellness. I am currently enrolled in a fascinating medical sociology course, and some of my favorite classes in the past have included a comparative human development course on race and educational disparities, a psychology course on empathy, and a core civ class on Ottoman social history.

Please share a significant, memorable experience you had during your time at UChicago this year.

Through MEDLIFE at UChicago, a national health organization with chapters at universities, I went on a week-long alternative spring break trip to Lima, Peru during my second year in order to volunteer at primary health clinics and immerse myself in Peruvian culture. It was an incredibly enlightening experience because it kickstarted my interest in health disparities and helping the urban poor.

What do you like to do outside of class?

I like to practice judo with the University of Chicago Judo Club, listen to hip-hop and electronic music, participate in the South Asian Student Association’s cultural show, hang out with my friends, and explore new parts of Chicago, specifically new places to eat.

How have you changed (as a student, thinker, citizen, or human) since coming to the University of Chicago?

I think I have developed a very keen awareness of the power of larger social structures. I know this sounds cliche, but ever since taking Self, Culture, and Identity, I have been fascinated with how institutions and organizations can impact the lives of individuals by determining the options from which we can make choices, whether it be in a context of what we can buy at a grocery store to something much more drastic like our options for health insurance and quality healthcare. I am also much more understanding of and attuned to the struggles of various oppressed groups. I have gained this awareness through discussions and interactions both within and outside the classroom, and by interacting with fellow students who self-identify with these groups.

If you could speak directly to the person who supported your scholarship, what would you say?

My parents are both over 65 and are self-employed. They have had an incredibly hard life as first generation immigrants and the economic crash in 2008 affected them dramatically because they worked exclusively with Chicago’s Korean-American community, and this demographic was hit hard. Every day I am so grateful that I can attend such a prestigious University and access all of its resources. I am grateful for the friends I have made, and for the knowledge I have accrued. Thanks to your generous contributions, I feel like I am going to graduate with memories, experiences, and relationships that I will never forget.

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