By the time Kim Kenny graduated this past winter term with degrees in biology and international studies, she had studied abroad five different times, interned with both the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), earned a scholarship to do research in an Oregon State University oyster lab, worked as the Honors College media assistant, wrote for three OSU publications, rowed for OSU, and completed an Honors thesis. And she accomplished it all in just over four years.
How did she do it? Passion and an adventurous spirit.
“Whenever an opportunity came up, I jumped on it,” Kim says. “I had so many roles — rowing, the Honors College, studying abroad, working — I felt like I got to live many different lives. I had the space, the opportunity, and the encouragement to be completely different versions of myself and have a lot of different perspectives help shape me.”
Kim’s passion for learning, exploring and traveling began when she was 13 on a trip to China with her grandfather. It was her first exposure to an unfamiliar country, and after three weeks traveling through China, she was hooked on the experience of exposing herself to new cultures and challenges.
“I wanted to feel uncomfortable, and I wanted to challenge myself to figure out what’s going on around me,” Kim says. After high school, Kim decided to take a gap year, which she spent traveling around the Caribbean and backpacking through Southeast Asia.
“After the gap year, I knew I needed to travel more; I loved this,” Kim says. “I wanted to find whatever way I could to travel in college. It’s a really cool thing that you can travel and learn and have the structure of accomplishing something for your degree.”
Kim studied abroad in Antarctica, Australia, Thailand, and China while at Oregon State. After choosing Chinese as her focus language for the International Studies program, she returned to China for a fifth global experience as an undergraduate. She received the prestigious Critical Language Scholarship from the United States Department of State, which fully funded an eight week cultural and language immersion program in Suzhou, China.
“You take classes in Chinese for half of the day and the other half you work with a language partner they assign you,” Kim says. “We also had the opportunity to travel around, but most of the time we were in Suzhou doing that really intensive language program.”
Throughout her myriad travels, OSU and the Honors College remained a home base to return to, and whenever she was back on campus, Kim applied the same thirst for experience in seeking out any opportunities she felt might inspire her.
“The encouragement from the Honors College advisors was incredible,” Kim says. “They helped me decide what credits to take, and they let me take any opportunity I wanted.”
She received the Honors College DeLoach Work Scholarship in 2014 to work in George Waldbusser’s oyster lab in the College of Earth Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, and she wrote for The Daily Barometer (the OSU student newspaper), Terra (the university’s research publication), and Catalyst (an undergraduate research journal).
Over time, her interests in science, travel, and communication began to coalesce into a future path.
Her Honors thesis, “The China Connection: A Glimpse of Collaborative Research between China and Oregon State University,” was a true capstone, blending her experiences and passions by looking at the collaboration, research, and data sharing between two innovative, yet vastly different cultures.
Next year, in the fall of 2015, Kim will move further along this path into a new adventure as she begins graduate studies in journalism at Stanford’s School of Communication. She plans to focus there on science writing and the way scientists of different cultures communicate across the globe.
“I want to travel to China and coach Americans on how to talk with Chinese scientists,” Kim says. “I’m hoping my time at Stanford will help me move forward on that career path.”
By: Emma-Kate Schaake
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