A young female university student bravely stands at the stage in the Welch-Ryang Auditorium. As she faces hundreds of people, taking an oath as a representative of freshmen students, she feels nervous yet excited. She could finally feel and realize that she has now come out into the world. Cui Lina (English, 1), an ethnic Korean who lived in China, overcame the adversity of having severe burns all over her body and entered Ewha Womans University this year as a scholarship student of EGPP (Ewha Global Partnership Program).
There was a serious gas explosion when Cui was 11 years old. Due to the accident, her mother passed away in just three days and Cui was left with 95 percent burns on her entire body. The 95 percent burns also meant that Cui only had a 5 percent possibility to survive. Against all odds, however, Cui miraculously made it through.
“I was able to overcome the hardships thanks to my family,” Cui recalls. “My family members had a very difficult time because of me, so I felt that I should not give up.”
Cui also received many letters from all parts of the world, even from people she had never even met before. With great encouragement, she gained the strength to endure the difficulties she faced.
“It was a little surprising to receive letters from strangers, but I felt proud when I read them because I was assured that I was doing well,” Cui said.
Because of her injuries from the accident, Cui had to undergo more than 30 surgeries, which were conducted in Korea. So Cui had to travel back and forth between China and Korea with her grandparents. In 2005, during her second visit to Korea, Cui met Lee Ji-sun (’00, Early Childhood Education), who also suffered from severe burns and went through numerous surgeries.
“As we are in a somewhat similar situation, her words of encouragement and advice were more helpful than others’,” Cui said. “One of the most inspiring things she said to me was that I am not wrong but different and that I am special. She also told me that because I have endured huge ordeal so far, there is nothing I cannot go through in the future.”
Lee’s recommendation was one of the reasons why Cui chose to come to Ewha. In addition, Cui had wished to study and live in Korea.
“I received a great deal of help in Korea from Koreans,” Cui said. “It made me curious about Korea, and I wanted to find out why Koreans were so full of affection and warmth.”
After the accident, Cui was not able to go to school or go out freely, so she had to prepare herself to go out into the world and eventually decide a university.
“Because I look different, people would look at me,” Cui said. “Although I have done nothing wrong, I would get hurt by others’ stares and become afraid to meet people or go outside.”
With the help of her friends and family, Cui slowly practiced socializing and soon gained confidence. She passed a qualification exam in 2013 and enrolled as an English Literature major in Ewha.
“I have great interest in languages and I wanted to learn English more systematically,” Cui said. “In addition, I wanted to make friends all across the globe and experience the world.”
During her approximately one-month-experience at Ewha, Cui has encountered a couple of challenges.
“Even though I had expected it, Ewha students are very studious, making studying more challenging and difficult for me,” Cui said. “Also, the dormitory is too far. A couple of days ago, the doctor told me that I have to be careful because my bones have been transformed because of my skin.”
Despite such matters, Cui is enjoying her university life to the fullest extent.
“I had always hoped to lead a life as an ordinary university student, and I am so happy and thankful that I am currently living so,” Cui said.
Cui has also joined a university club and is thinking about doing volunteer work.
“Up until now, I have continuously received someone else’s help, and now I want to share what I can do for others,” Cui said.
Even besides volunteer work, Cui is already spreading hope around the world with her inspiring life story. She has appeared on various news articles and is currently shooting for TV as well. Cui dreams of writing an autobiographical book in the future to help others overcome their hardships as well.
Cui added a final word for fellow Ewha students.
“I have many differences from other students: nationality, age and appearance,” Cui said. “But I hope that everyone would treat me the same as everyone else.”