Rachel Kim, a freshman majoring in print and digital journalism who was known for her compassion and striking sense of humor, died on Nov. 24 after she was found unresponsive in her dorm room. She was 18.
Friends and family said Kim could always cheer someone up and would not hesitate to give anything to anyone who needed help or seemed down.
“She was a unique personality, she wasn’t afraid to be herself, she didn’t necessarily have to conform to everybody’s expectations,” said Bob Kim, Rachel’s father. “I knew she was independent.”
Kim grew up in Brookeville, Md. with her parents, Bob and Leslie Kim, and older brother Michael Kim.
She spent much of her childhood reading, playing music and participating in sports, her father said. She also enjoyed meeting new people and loved to travel.
Kim served as a content editor of her high school newspaper, which led to her interest in journalism at USC.
“She would have been a great writer — she was a free spirit about things. She could have written some books,” her father said.
Kim said he remembers his daughter as fiercely independent but loyal to her friends and family. She was a voracious reader, and would finish two to three books each week.
One of her favorite authors was Chuck Palahniuk, who wrote Fight Club and Choke, Bob Kim said.
“She found out the movie Choke was debuting at the Sundance film festival,” he said. “I remember her making me get up at four o’clock in the morning to get tickets to see the movie, and she actually had the book with her.”
Dylan Aldrich, a freshman majoring in international relations who went to middle school with Kim, said she was extremely outgoing and creative.
“Sometimes, I’d go into her room and we’d just take funny pictures on her Mac,” Aldrich said. “She would laugh every time I was with her.”
Aldrich said he admired Kim for her colorful personality and confidence to always be herself.
“A lesson I’ve taken from her is to just really be unabashedly yourself,” he said. “It’s really important to not pose or try to do things that you think are going to please everybody else.”
Molly Keam, Kim’s roommate, said Kim considered changing her major from print and digital journalism to psychology because of the changing nature of the media industry.
“She really enjoyed reading, but not so much fiction — books that actually have something to say about life. She was really into the mind,” Keam said.
But what friends said they remembered most was Kim’s pervasive compassion and concern for other people.
“If she could tell we were going through a tough time, she would drop everything and go spend time with them,” Keam said. “I remember one of the girls on the floor really needed an inhaler, and [Kim] was just so worried about that for the rest of the night. She was always so concerned with everyone else’s well-being.”
Kim had a quirky sense of humor and was fun to be around, said Sydney Goldman, a freshman majoring in communication.
“She was just always a lot of fun. She knew exactly what to say to crack everyone up, but be totally dead-pan about it. She was always very unique and very different than everyone else,” Goldman said. “To know her is to love her.”
Andrew Mellen, a junior majoring in business administration, said he instantly clicked with Kim when they met.
“I don’t know how we connected. We just started talking at four in the morning and that was it,” Mellen said. “I’ve met hundreds and hundreds of people at USC, maybe thousands, and not many have I instantly befriended like that and it just says something.”
Kim loved all types of music, a characteristic that Mellen said demonstrated her open-minded personality.
“I’ve never met one person who looked at her negatively, because she was just so — she didn’t judge,” Mellen said. “She just took people how they were and she just thought people should do the same. She was just very thoughtful of others … She’s a sweetheart.”
Students often saw Kim walking around campus with Beats by Dr. Dre headphones, Peter Wyche, a sophomore majoring in mathematics and philosophy, wrote in an e-mail. Kim loved dubstep music and pandas, he wrote, but more importantly, Wyche said Kim changed his life and helped him turn it around.
“She always put smiles on the faces of those around her, whether through her actions or by goofy faces she would make to cheer us up,” Wyche wrote. “We always wished we could return the favor … Rae meant the world and more to me.”
A candlelight vigil will be held tonight at 9 p.m. in Argue Plaza, located next to the Alumni House, and students who would like to write a message can sign a poster in memory of Kim in Pardee Tower.
A memorial service for Kim will also be held in Maryland on Saturday.