by Carlos Anchondo
Kyle Hill is a survivor.
When Hill was 23 years old she went driving with a friend. She was sitting in the passenger seat when a stranger ran a red light. Hill’s car was violently hit in a side collision and doctors told her family that she may never walk again.
Her spirit unbroken, Hill would not be defined by her injuries.
Suffering from a broken neck, collar bone, and hip, Hill also had internal bleeding, lacerations to her face, and was confined to a halo for four months. Determined to recover, Hill moved from a hospital bed to a wheelchair, from a wheelchair to learning how to stand in physical therapy, to walking, and eventually to running 5k road races.
“I’m proud of my ability to overcome,” Hill says. “A lot of people see me as a happy and bubbly person, but everybody struggles with something. I work harder than most people think I have to.”
Hill is now a medical student at St. Martinus University School of Medicine, a private university located in Willemstad, Curaçao. Nestled in the Caribbean above Venezuela, Hill calls Curaçao the ideal place to attend medical school. With dramatic views of the sea and tropical breezes as her backdrop, Hill has just completed her second semester of studies, with courses ranging from neuroanatomy and physiology to behavioral sciences and biochemistry.
Since childhood, Hill has aspired to become a doctor. Hill chose Trinity because it had such a high percentage of pre-med students getting accepted into their top choice medical schools. As a speech communication major on the pre-med track, Hill says Trinity taught her to write well, think nonlinearly, and to question the world around her.
“Trinity trained me to look at things differently and to challenge everything,” Hill says.
After graduation from Trinity, Hill worked as a ranger at the Houston Zoo, for a doctor’s office, as a lab technician, and in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston.
It was at UT Medical School that Hill had an epiphany of sorts. Although she had a comfortable job with comfortable pay, she grew tired of doing the same mundane tasks day-in and day-out.
So Hill decided she would see the world, starting with South Korea.
Hill applied to teach in South Korea through the Gyeonggi English Program in Korea (GEPIK), where she was hired by the South Korean government to teach English and science. Hill taught in the Gyeonggi province in the city of Suwon. During the two years Hill spent in South Korea, she taught kindergarten, third through sixth grade, and a science class for advanced students.
Living in an apartment within walking distance from her public school, Hill quickly fell in love with the culture, the people, and her students. Hill would chat with students in between classes and during her lunch hour, where students would help her practice Korean.
One of the aspects Hill most admired about South Korean culture was the element of respect for elders and teachers.
“The profession of a teacher receives high respect,” Hill says. “Parents have so much gratitude for helping their student learn.”
When she was not teaching, Hill traveled to Cambodia, Thailand, China, Japan, and all across South Korea. She says travel is one of the most positive experiences a person can have.
“It’s just a humbling experience to see how other people live,” Hill says. “Travel makes you appreciate your culture, but also teaches respect and understanding for others as well. I am pretty sure traveling makes you a better person.”
At school in Curaçao, Hill is studying to become an oncologist, which she says has a personal connection to her family. One of her grandmothers died of breast cancer when Hill was in middle school, and her mother recently underwent a double mastectomy and a hysterectomy after discovering she had the BRCA gene.
Hill’s ultimate goal is to travel and practice, helping cancer patients worldwide. When not studying for St. Martinus, Hill is completing a master’s degree in clinical research administration from Walden University. With her M.D., she wants to join a research group where she will be able to lead her own research project.
As she tackles her current nemesis – neuroscience – Hill continues with the same perseverance, grit, and grace that carried her through her accident. Hill’s passion for life is evident, a gusto that has earned her the praise of being a “good soul” from her friends.
“To be told your soul is pure,” Hill says, humbly, “that’s the best compliment that anyone could receive.”