Former NK Refugee in Nursing School

Studying Hard Every Day: 

KH, who enrolled in nursing school in April, is about to start her summer vacation. It has been less than 5 years since KH came to Japan from North Korea. First she enrolled in, then graduated from, evening middle school. Next, she took enough units at the municipal high school to earn her high school graduation certificate in less than two years. This spring, she applied to take the entrance examination for a well-known nursing school. Competing against native Japanese high school students under the exact same conditions, she passed an exam for which only about 1 in 7 gains admission.

Now, a little more than three months since enrolling, KH, has made new friends, and finds her classes so interesting that each 90 minute class feels short. The nursing school that KH attends is affiliated with a large, widely renowned hospital. Gaining an education there, in terms of both studies and life, is extremely hard. There are many exams, and if the standard score is not met, a re-test is required. If even that is not good enough, then the student is failed.

“For anatomy and physiology, the technical terms themselves are so difficult that I have to study 3 times longer than a Japanese student,” says KH. The night before an exam, she studies all night, and, so far, she has not once needed a re-test. The night before the first day of practical study at the hospital, she nervously checked everything to make sure that she did not forget anything,

KH applied for a scholarship and received a grant from the hospital, but it is still difficult to make ends meet. Every morning she makes her lunch to take with her to school. She sent me a photo of herself wearing her white uniform for the first time at the end of May. The beautiful image of her bright smiling face made me think of her family, and it brought tears to my eyes.

Risking her life to cross the Tumen River along the North Korean border, and then overcoming so many hardships to reach Japan, KH is now living each day as a student at a nursing school with wonderful strength and vitality. That image inspires courage in our hearts and reawakens our faith in humanity. I look forward to the day when KH will become an amazing nurse.

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