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Designing a New Future

A student sits in front of a computer with animation displayed on the screen as she turns and smiles over her left shoulder.
Hyesun Kwon, graduate of NSCC Truro Campus’s Digital Animation Diploma program and part-time instructor

As a single parent in Korea, Hyesun Kwon (Truro Campus) says she knew she needed to make a bold move for the sake of her daughter.

“Living as a single mother in Korea is so hard,” says Hyesun. “Some Koreans are still very conservative, and I noticed that Nikki had started to feel ashamed about the absence of her father because of how people treated her. I didn’t want to raise her in those circumstances.”

Even though Hyesun was a published, award-winning cartoonist and had worked in the industry for many years before her daughter was born, the local agency arranging her move encouraged her to enrol in early childhood education classes in Ontario.

“I was told that because I was a ‘middle-aged woman, I could easily get a good job in a kindergarten,” says Hyesun. “I didn’t want to do it, but I always try to do my best for my daughter, so I decided to register. I thought that was the best way for us to make it.”

Finding her passion, again

After arriving in Canada, Hyesun says her passion for drawing began to resurface. When Nikki was invited to a birthday party, Hyesun decided to draw a cartoon card as opposed to buying one. It was the inspiration she needed.

“I’d almost forgotten how much I loved drawing cartoons until I came to Canada. I started to think, ‘maybe I can have a job doing this if I am good enough’”

Hyesun says she was encouraged by how many job opportunities she came across in the field. She began researching colleges where she could study Digital Animation and discovered NSCC Truro Campus. “I just knew that this was my second chance to pursue cartooning for my career.”

With an enviable background in graphic design, Hyesun says she found she was familiar with many elements of the program. “I was so lucky since NSCC has great instructors and a really good curriculum that let me learn quickly, even though it was tough.”

Her hard work paid off. In addition to her essential role in a student-powered project to develop animated videos on transfusion best practices for the Nova Scotia Health Authority, Hyesun also won the Board of Governors Award at graduation in 2018. “I was desperate to do well for my daughter, so I worked really hard. I was never afraid to ask a question if I needed to learn more, and I had a passion to restart my career.”

Achieving her dream

Today, Hyesun is a successful freelance animator working with companies across Canada including Expired Games Inc. and Cartoon Conrad Productions. Her work can be seen in animated films such as Woody Woodpecker, books including Luna, Chip and Inkie and in ballet productions of the Snow Queen and the Alice in Wonderland.

“When Woody Woodpecker was released, I was so excited. I watched it with my daughter. I’m so happy I could be a part of the crew that made that film.”

Hyesun says that 15 years ago, becoming a full-time cartoonist was something that she only dreamed about. Today, by working hard to build a new life for herself and her daughter, she’s made that dream a reality.