South Dakota inspires BHSU employee to achieve United States citizenship

Author: BHSU Communications/Tuesday, May 19, 2015/Categories: 2015

When Izabelle Choi was in fourth grade in South Korea, she vividly remembers seeing a picture in a textbook of the "Big Stone Faces" in South Dakota.  She asked herself, could these "Big Stone Faces" really exist?   Twenty years later, Izabelle stood in front of the Big Stone Faces, otherwise known as Mount Rushmore in Keystone, South Dakota, after accepting a job at Black Hills State University.

At BHSU, Izabelle serves as Associate Director of the Academic English Preparation Program (AEPP).  The AEPP prepares students to successfully study in a university in the U.S. by focusing on language used in the academic classroom.

Izabelle originally came to the U.S. to pursue her master&rsquos degree.  She didn&rsquot have any intention of staying in the U.S. long-term.

"I fell in love with this country," said Izabelle.  "I like the people.  And the emphasis on human justice &ndash that&rsquos what attracts me to the United States."

In 2014, Izabelle took her oath as a naturalized citizen of the United States.  

"Korea is my home country.  My ancestors were from there and my family still lives there, but I decided to integrate myself into the United States and go for citizenship.  It took me a long time to decide," said Izabelle.    

Izabelle says her mission and calling is to influence students, both international students and American students who&rsquove never been outside of the United States.

"Every opportunity counts, every meeting, every conversation," said Izabelle.  "I want to help students participate in and experience the world through travel abroad.  I hope my own experiences inspire other students."

Anyone who&rsquos worked with Izabelle knows her positive influence on international students through several programs offered through her office.  The Cultural Ambassador/Conversation Partner Program, for example, pairs a domestic student with an international student.  The students exchange language and cultures.  

"Small things can lead to big outcomes.  I want students to reach their dreams.  And if our department can take part in their life, even in a small way, that would be an honorable thing to me," said Izabelle.

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