Club Spotlight: Seikyo Pen Friends

Helena Wang

Roman Gralak

Why did Seikyo Pen Friends start?


Samantha Lin: “My sister was the one who created this club and she created it originally with the purpose to reach out to North Korean students who went into South Korea so they could have some companionship. So I joined one because it was my sister’s club and also because I really like pen pal-ing and I think it would be fun to have an international friend.”


What are some events planned for this year?


Renee Kim: “We are planning our meetings to be a safe space for everyone to hang out, even if you don’t have a pen pal or if you do. It is just a place for you to be immersed with the culture and make friends within the club and across the globe. But we were planning some holiday celebrations to make our club a little more fun. We were planning Halloween, Christmas, New Years, Valentines Day, White Day, which is similar to Valentines Day, and maybe going on a small field trip to the Japanese Cherry Blossom Park when it blooms during that time.”

Samantha Lin: “(The Japanese Cherry Blossom Park) is even more special because the school that we’re collaborating with, they’re in Kawachinagano, Osaka in Japan. And the Japanese Garden we have in Carmel was built in cooperation with the sister city (in Japan).”


What does your monthly meeting look like?


Samantha Lin: “Usually, the first thing we do at (club meetings) is to go around and ask everyone how their pen pal-ing is going. But, we just got the profiles from our students, so we haven’t matched up the penpals from our side with anyone in Japan yet. So for this meeting (on Oct. 3), we will just plan fun and culture-based activities and it won’t be related to pen pal-ing.”


Renee Kim: “Since it is our only October meeting, we could have a little Halloween party. We might give out some Asian candies.”


Samantha Lin: “Because our club is very independent-based, you just email your pen pal on your own outside of the club, so the meetings are not really super involved with the actual purpose of our club, it’s mainly just an area for hanging out with people and talking about your penpal if you want to.”


Arriya Arif, Samantha Lin, and Renee Kim, Seikyo Pen Friends co-leaders and juniors, start a video for club members. Kim said this year, the club hopes to gain more recognition. (Helena Wang)


How did this club get in contact with the sister school in Japan?


Samantha Lin: “My sister wanted to reach out to a school with North Korean students, but they never responded, so she thought about what connections Carmel had in other countries. And since we have a sister city in Japan, she decided to reach out to the school there. She contacted an English club leader and they started messaging about it, and that’s how it started.”


Renee Kim: “Last year, we saw that even if we didn’t have many members on our end, the club in Japan couldn’t reach up to ours either. It was so small, it was almost biased on how we were picking our members as well. So we felt really bad (last year). So we were really thinking about changing this year. This year, we’re making the first-come, first-serve (rule), and we are trying to email as many world language teachers or schools (in other countries) so we could have connections there. Originally, (this club) was for North Korean students, but we changed it to our sister school in Japan. And now, we are hoping that we can help students all across the world to have a more cultural experience with America.”



How does this club send and receive the pen pal letters?


Samantha Lin: “It was originally supposed to be physical pen and paper, because a lot of people like doing stationery. But because of COVID-19 it had to be online.”


How do members get paired up with others in Japan?


Arriya Arif: “We’ll collect profiles on each student that signs up here on our side. This year we’re doing first-come,  first-serve, since there’s a limited amount of pen pals that can receive things in Japan. But we’ll put together the profiles and send them over to Japan and then the students in the English club over there will pick which student they want to be their pen pal.”


Samantha Lin: “Pen pals include basic information, like name, age, grade, hobbies or interests.”


What makes this club special and different from other clubs?


Samantha Lin: “I feel like you don’t see pen pal clubs everywhere or clubs that involve people all over the world, so that’s what makes our club so special because you can meet new people and make new friends. And there are a lot of fun activities we have planned. We’re doing things centered around holidays for each month, like a theme, and I think not all clubs have that.” 


Renee Kim: “I feel like a lot of clubs–and I’m not saying this is a bad thing–but clubs nowadays are always charitable and there’s an organization behind it. It’s a really good cause. I’m a part of a lot of clubs like that, but I think that our club provides a sense of comfort and security, instead of homework, in a way. In those other clubs, which are amazing, you might feel stressed, like, ‘Oh, I need to tutor this kid,’ instead of pen pal-ing this kid. Our club is reassuring that you always have someone by your side, even if they may be miles away from you or you don’t even have a lot of contact with, they’ll always be there.”


What are some of your main goals for this club?


Samantha Lin: “I wanted to expand more this year, because like I said, it was really small before. So reaching out to more clubs and possibly schools from countries other than Japan, I think that would be really nice.”


Renee Kim: “One of our club goals is to really get our club name in the light because last year was so bad. We forgot to check our emails, we didn’t even make it to the yearbook, even HiLite didn’t know about us. This year, we want to be like ‘Hey! We’re a club, please join!’”

Roman Gralak