Sora Oh '03
Sora and her family left Korea when she was 15. She didn’t speak any English, but her family came to Minnesota for better educational opportunities and a better environment. That fall, her brother went to the University of Minnesota, and she started her sophomore year at MA.
Sora and her mother were a bit afraid for her to go to school in America and to start school as a sophomore. Because she didn’t speak any English, some schools were hesitant to enroll her. A kind and welcoming teacher at Minnehaha said that they could help Sora and give her a good environment to learn and study English as well as other subjects. That made the choice to attend Minnehaha an easy one.
A Warm Welcome
When Sora started at MA, biology was her first hour class, and she could not understand anything. She was very anxious to even say her name to kids who asked. Although she was afraid, the teachers and the students were very friendly. Many approached her, asked her name and tried to make conversation with her. No one made fun of her. Some students even made her little note cards with words she didn’t know and the definition of the words. In just six months, her English improved tremendously. Her Junior year, she was even able to take AP chemistry and understand her textbook and all that was going on in class! “MA provided a comfortable environment to learn to speak English, and to learn in general,” Sora said.
Her choir teacher, Mr. Olson, found out that she was a talented pianist, and gave her the opportunity to be the accompanist for the school choruses, which she did for three years. President John Engstrom also gave her the opportunity to perform during school events.
From MA to Juilliard and Beyond
Sora received both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Piano Performance from The Juilliard School in New York City. After her Master’s, she earned a doctorate in Piano Performance and Literature from The Eastman School of Music.
Sora served as a member of the Piano faculty at New Jersey City University for two years. During this time, the rest of her family moved back to Korea and she wasn’t sure if she should stay in the US, or return with them. Her father had some health issues, and after a few years of not being able to see him because of her studies, she decided to move back to Korea and live with her family. She felt it was her turn to give back to her parents, stay with them, take care of them, and show them who she is now. Currently, she is still living with her family and her father’s health has improved greatly.
Sora now works at two universities- one in the capital city of Seoul, Korea and the other in Pusan, Korea, which she commutes to by train. Sora is a lecturer in piano, gives many piano recitals a year, and provides piano lessons to a broad variety of students.
To The Alumni
What does Sora want to share with alumni about her time at MA? “My three years at MA were very significant for my whole life in setting up my path, my personality, and all of the ideas that grew up in me. I appreciated my friends and teachers, and their support and help. They treated me not as a foreigner but just as a person. They thought my piano talent was special and unique, a valuable gift and I learned that gift was something I could use for the rest of my life.”