When third year UNLV School of Medicine student Andrew Han first tells you he has moved “around a bit,” you get a fuller appreciation of understatement.
Yes, upon further questioning, you find out this is a young man who attended four different high schools -- two in Colorado, one in Los Angeles and one in Alaska -- following attendance in two different elementary schools and three different middle schools in South Korea.
So what does Han, who also spent five years on the high seas in the U.S. Navy prior to attending a California community college and then graduating from San Diego State University, have to say about finally settling down in Las Vegas, where his parents came to reside?
“I just want to have a stable life -- and I can have that here,” he says. “I’m sick of
moving around,” he says.
When he looks at the future, he sees himself raising a family in Southern Nevada as he practices psychiatry -- he believes what he’s learned in life can be used to help people during talk therapy sessions.
“I see great opportunity here,” he says.
His parents originally came to the U.S. from South Korea to study at American universities. Born in America, Han was 3-years-old when he accompanied his parents on their return to South Korea. Financial difficulties then brought the family back to the U.S. as Han’s businessman-father searched for solid ways to support the family.
“Soon after we moved to Las Vegas, I joined the military because my family was in a financial crisis with both of my parents unemployed. To support my family (Han also has two brothers) and continue my education (through the GI Bill), the military was the only logical choice at the time.”
Han says his military experience, though sometimes stressful, has proved to be beneficial.
“I think I’ve experienced certain stresses in my life that can make me better relate to patients, especially some of the immigrant population we have here” Han says.
When Han came to the U.S. as a teenager, he knew little English. “I found myself looking up so many words in the dictionary…I was put in an ESL (English as a Second Language) Program” …I had to repeat my freshman year...some students gave me a hard time about not being an American…when people can’t speak the language well at first, they’re discriminated against...if you haven’t experienced it, you don’t know how it feels, you’re seen as just being a whiner.”
Wanting to go to college, and with no family funds, Han enlisted in the Navy, where he became an electronics technician on huge vessels that spent months at sea, frequently with as many as 4,000 personnel (Navy and Marines) aboard. In the military, Han found few Asian-Americans and few personnel who didn’t want “to just stay with their own kind.” Even though he completed electronics training faster than others, achieving higher rank came slowly. “I had to learn to speak up...there were times when discrimination was quite depressing.”
Still, Han says going in the Navy was the best decision he’s ever made. Forcing himself to socialize with others, he says, helped him grow as a human being.