Growing up the grandson of North Korea refugees to the United States, Korea was always present in my life. I spent three years in Koreas as a Fulbright grantee after graduating college in 2013 in many ways of out curiosity—to simply learn more about the country and culture that remained my grandparents’ true home.
My experience there—living with my homestay family, getting to know my students, volunteering with North Korean defectors—instilled a deep and lifelong passion for Korea. That personal transformation sparked a deeper curiosity about the historical and political forces that had such a large influence on my family story. I applied to Johns Hopkins SAIS concentrating in Korea Studies to broaden my understanding of the country and the region.
Now as a recent grad and new Foreign Service Office for the State Department, I’m even more appreciative of my graduate school experience. Of course, the skills the school teaches are extraordinarily helpful in my career: concise writing and briefing, in depth research and analysis, a solid foundation in economics. But, I’m particularly grateful for the people. The school, and Asia Studies in particular, is filled with people who are truly student-centered in all they do. I was struck by how faculty and staff were always alert for opportunities to help students professionally and personally. And I was constantly amazed by my fellow students, whose insights, work ethic, and sense of humor challenged and inspired me. Perhaps, the best part of my graduate school experience was the chance to learn with, and learn from, all of them.