KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In the crowd at Rockhurst University’s 2021 commencement ceremony, 40-year-old Hyoyoung Wells sat with anticipation as she waited for her name to be called. After five years of endurance and triumph, she is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Physics of Medicine.
“Oh, it feels… unreal,” Wells said. “Because I never, ever thought I’m going to graduate a four-year school in America. I don’t know how I got here, but I just enjoyed every, each class.”
Wells immigrated to the United States with her parents 20 years ago. She fell in love with Las Vegas and knew she wanted to spend the rest of her life in the states. She said the toughest part about acclimating was her broken English. Just over five years ago, she felt a tug at her heartstrings to change the trajectory of her life.
“I thought I was just going to raise kids, and then just become [a] stay-[at]-home mom," Wells said. "I had no dream. And then I had lots of depression and I was on medicine – just didn’t know what to do.”
Wells recalled being unable to help her son with his homework and having trouble reading and understanding newsletters from his school. She decided to be proactive and volunteered at his preschool, where she learned English along with the children.
“They don’t judge me,” Wells said. “I didn’t ask [for] any help, because I always believed if I have an issue, I have to solve it. Other people cannot solve my problems for me. But if you try really hard and ask for help, there’s tons of people out there who are willing to help you.”
It was the first step that opened many doors for Wells. She dared to dream bigger and enrolled at Rockhurst University.
“It’s very inspiring,” Annie Lee, Wells’ chemistry professor, said. “She worked really hard given all of the things that she has going on in her life. She just did such a good job with it, and it’s been wonderful getting to know her.”
Wells wants to become a doctor, so she will never stop learning. She said she first became interested in the medical field while supporting her first husband, who struggled with heart problems and died from a heart attack. Her mother also was diagnosed with cancer 15 years ago. With as much pomp and circumstance in her step, she is heading off to a master’s program at Kansas City University this fall.
“It’s like a kid in a candy store," Wells said. "Eight hours standing? Didn’t bother me. I didn’t want to go home – I had so much fun,” Wells said.
For those who might be on the edge of starting over, Wells said helping others starts with helping yourself. Her journey, she said, has helped grow her confidence, but her focus is on always staying humble.
“You don’t have to be perfect," Wells said. "You can just be yourself and you don’t have to be somebody else. And you don’t have to have the perfect situation – you can start a little bit at a time.”