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UIC 2019 Graduate Program Admissions: Alumni Interview


(Yurie Lee, Scribe)

The UIC Dean (Professor Taeyoon Sung) met with UIC alumni on a peaceful Saturday morning to discuss their current and future plans as graduate students. During their introduction, it was interesting to note their diverse backgrounds, having come from different universities, countries and fields of study. We took a closer look at our sun-baes’ evolving goals as they progress on with their different steps of life.

This interview asked six alumni about their life as a UIC student, why they decided to enroll in their graduate school of choice, future goals, and tips on undergraduate life and studying abroad.


Kyooyung Ra

Why did you choose to enroll in USC?

When you are in the media field, you really can’t do better than University of Southern California. It is the best school you could go to for Cinema & Media Studies in America, specialized especially in this field. To be honest, I didn’t even know I would have a chance with USC’s film school when I first wrote the applications for graduate schools-I never would have imagined I would get into the school at the heart of Hollywood productions with tuition and stipends funded as a TA. 

My other choice for accepted graduate school was Harvard, also accepted with full financial support and fellowship. My Asian parents (being the typical Asian parents) are still strung up on me giving up Harvard for USC, but I don’t regret my decision at all. I know many students think Harvard would be the best choice for anything they do. I myself had a hard time giving up my acceptance for this prestigious institution, constantly finding myself at a dilemma. In terms of media studies and production, however, you don’t give up on your ticket to Los Angeles and the University of Southern California.

How was your life as a UIC student? Could you share any memorable events from your school days?

I was… I would say, a mild rebel. 

I came to UIC as entering class of 2010 and graduated in 2019. Half of that time was spent on my gap year. I wanted to jump into the media industry as early as possible and learn how to direct, edit, and write with hands-on experience. I worked through advertisement companies, independent media institutions, broadcast companies, and etc. throughout this time.

The rest of the time I wasn’t studying or working, I was dancing. I was also a performer, something that started as a hobby since high school but later developed to an almost profession now. I’ve kept myself pretty busy in college.

I loved school, don’t get me wrong. Majoring in PSIR and CLC was a blast. In hindsight, having chosen the two majors with the most amount of reading was not the smartest move on my part, but the studies helped me grow so much intellectually. These were also the academic fields that let me have a really good verbal fight with the professors in class… and if I was good at it, I was graded well for it!

The experiences all helped me throughout my career trajectory in the media industry. Having a humanities background, stage performance career, as well as hands-on industry experience in creative production and writing, were all strengths that helped me stand out from my peers and colleagues. 

What is your plan after graduating USC?

My primary plan is to pursue a PhD in the same field, to teach the brighter minds of the future generation later in life. However, I would also love the opportunity to work more in the industry in America before settling down for doctoral studies if possible.

What tips would you give to yourself as an undergraduate?

Don’t listen to other people.

I don’t mean that in an obnoxious way. Or maybe I do. Take advices that are relevant to you, not unnecessary commentaries from people who do not understand what you are doing. Don’t try to follow the path people have already taken and paved for you. Bulldoze through your own highway.

Do you have any last comments to students who aspire to enter the same field or study abroad?

Don’t break the rules. Make the rules.

As I said, don’t take advice from people who don’t know you. By the time you decide to enter the industry or go to graduate school, things will be so much different from what I experienced. 

Always stay relevant. Keep up with trends, but never follow them blindly. This is especially true for people who are in the media and creative industry. Just because everyone is rushing into YouTube now in Korea, don’t jump the wagon. Vlogs and hauls were trending almost a decade back in America, and only now are they beginning to be popular in Korea. If one viral video starts trending, everyone is copying it. We are so quick to jump on trends, and yet ironically, we are so slow. 

Remember what happened; be keenly aware of what is happening now. But most importantly, think about what will be happening from now on. Why else do you think we learn history as part of our common curriculum? Don’t let your tuition go to waste.

So Heum Hwang

Why did you choose to enroll in Umea University?

I wanted to find an environment where I could expand my knowledge in my major, but in a place where different cultures mix together. The diversity of culture was why I wanted to study in Europe, not in the States, and Umea University was ranked as the 1st place for three years in a row in Red Dot Awards. Also the fact that the school only had 10 students per year made me decide to go to this school, since I wanted a focused environment where I could get close relationship with professors and other students. 

How was your life as a UIC student? Could you share any memorable events from your school days?

The best moments/events in UIC were all the career tours or additional class related tours that UIC provided. I would always learn so much from people abroad. Especially when I was in Geneva University for exchange (which was also a UIC-only exchange school), I volunteered for International Design Factory Week 2016 which was held in Ideasquare (which is a Design Factory in Switzerland). I met all the professors from UIC at the event in Geneva; it was nice to bond with them in another country.

What is your plan after graduating Umea University?

I will search for a job in interaction design in Europe, possibly in Sweden or in other Nordic countries.

What tips would you give to yourself as an undergraduate?

Participate in all the events, grab all the opportunities as a UIC student, and stay active.

Do you have any last comments to students who aspire to enter the same field or study abroad?

Keep a good track/record of your portfolio and works. Record all the process, and have your own story as a designer. 

Yeji Park

Why did you choose to study in the Netherlands?

My decision was mainly based on the country’s social and academic atmosphere. I chose to study in the Netherlands and at this specific university (Leiden and TU Delft) as I was convinced that the country is where the transition toward the circular economy is taking place most actively. Moreover, the course provides the best practical and multi-disciplinary programme from which I can gain technical expertise to bring to my profession after graduation. Another reason would be its social atmosphere and culture where society actively supports and promotes sustainable, eco-friendly, and disruptive business models. 

How was your life as a UIC student? Could you share any memorable events from your school days?

My days at UIC were amazing. I truly loved and enjoyed the interactions and great memories I had and built with my classmates, not only within my major but also within the entire UIC. I especially loved how open, creative, and fearless we are when it comes to challenging ourselves for new opportunities and pioneering unexplored activities. As UIC and especially the new YIC (International Campus) were pretty new at the time of my freshmen year, everything my classmates and I started out was the very first experiment that had been ever initiated on the campus. Some of the most memorable projects were Sugarfree, the first drama club at YIC; and Greener, the first green campus project at YIC. In both cases I participated as one of the founding members. I still vividly remember the unforgettable feeling of joy and fulfillment I shared with the members when we successfully performed a 45 minute-long musical at the very first student-initiated chapel session at YIC. Filming a music video of the green campus project with active participation of UIC students has lasted as one of the most memorable events as well.

What is your plan after finishing graduate school?

I’m planning to study Industrial Ecology in the Netherlands. My plan after the course is not fully determined yet – I am keeping the doors open and looking forward to embracing new perspectives and interests I will encounter during the course. Still, my long-term plan is to build expertise in the field of circular economy through providing technical advice to help organisations transform their industrial process and business into a more sustainable model. After 5 years of building expertise in the region where such transitions are happening most actively, I would like to commit to spreading the same kind of transition in other societies where the demand is high yet not fulfilled.

What tips would you give to yourself as an undergraduate?

I would like to share two tips: try everything you want, but also take good care of your GPA (study hard, play hard! ;))

First, I hope the undergraduates give themselves enough time and space to try out everything, as much as possible. Only through this will you learn what you really like, are good at, or feel comfortable with. It is of course important to look back and think ahead of the things you really want, but still make sure to put more time to actually take action and put your thoughts into practice. “Doing” will teach you a lot more than simply “thinking or wondering”.

Second, try your best to take good care of your GPA. I thought I would be the last person to share this kind of advice, but as I was preparing for the next step after graduation, I learned that maintaining a good GPA gives you many more opportunities in the future as it serves as major proof of your diligence and level of commitment – especially when it comes to applying for graduate schools.

Do you have any last comments to students who aspire to enter the same field or study abroad?

I would like to tell students to mainly check two things : whether it is the right course/field of study you are really looking for and to see if the field has a good outlook.

Jungwon Son

Why did you choose to enroll in USC?

So my top choices were either USC or Cornell, but the programs are quite different. The program at Cornell was highly focused on management and business while USC’s MS in Business Analytics is focused heavily in analytics, machine learning, etc. My goal for graduate school has always been to gain a valuable, sellable asset for myself when applying for jobs. Hence, I chose to go to USC, especially because it is a top 3 program in its field and is known for its sophisticated program in this field.

How was your life as a UIC student? Could you share any memorable events from your school days?

I’d like to think back on my undergraduate years as not just a UIC student but a Yonsei student. UIC provided the opportunity to meet a variety of people and I am blessed to have met so many friends from so many different backgrounds. 

My most memorable experiences from my school days include my time at YMCG (Yonsei Management Consulting Group, a business school society) and the basketball clubs I’ve been a part of (Haze and Gyenongpae). YMCG has many students from UIC, which sparked my interest in joining and, while there, my interest in different business fields were sparked. Moreover, the basketball clubs as well as the football team I was a part of (Yonsei Eagles) continued to provide me with opportunities to meet different people from different majors.

I am especially grateful to UIC because of the professors that care so much about the students. I took RDQM in my freshman year, but continued to correspond with Professor Rennie Moon, who was one of the first people to get me interested in the field of analytics – something I ended up liking so much that I’m going to grad school for.

What is your plan after graduating USC?

I want to continue my pursuit in analytics by working as a data scientist at a tech firm like Google, Amazon, and such, or as a researcher in the finance industry.

What tips would you give to yourself as an undergraduate?

Make sure to take care of your grades because they really are all you have to prove as a student.

While it is important to have a variety of experiences, always think about why you are doing something but also the significance of it. Everything – as long as you try – can become a story that reveals a little more about yourself.

Do you have any last comments to students who aspire to enter the same field or study abroad?  

If you want to enter the same field, but are unsure about it because of your major, do not worry. Most of what I know about the analytics field is self-taught through online resources. The field of analytics is undeniably growing and one of the factors is the fact that so many resources are available online. Moreover, it’s never too late. I decided on going to grad school just a year ago!

Choi Seou

Why did you choose to enroll in ESSEC business school?

Although I majored in International Studies, most of my internships were in the corporate sector which is why I naturally wanted to learn more about business. By pursuing graduate studies in management I wanted to build a solid base in business but I was also attracted by the idea that I would be able to complement what I learned with practical experience.

How was your life as a UIC student? Could you share any memorable events from your school days?

I actually led quite a reserved life as a UIC student. I mostly stayed with a few close friends and I think most of my activities were outside of school, through internships or extra-curricular activities. My most memorable events would be hanging out with my friends in Songdo and going to the major university festivals. 

What is your plan after graduating ESSEC business school?

I plan to remain in France for work. I grew up in the UK and France so I am looking forward to going back to Europe to study and eventually find a job. ESSEC Business School is renowned for its luxury management programs so that is one domain I hope to discover more in depth.

What tips would you give to yourself as an undergraduate?

I think it’s important to be strategic in your plans and time-management. The time you have in university is limited, thus combining studies with extracurricular activities, university clubs, hanging out with friends, etc. can be difficult to manage all at once. I think it is important to set priorities so that you can channel your time and efforts most efficiently. 

Do you have any last comments to students who aspire to enter the same field or study abroad? 

The classes at UIC really taught me to develop a critical mindset and to express myself more clearly in writing. Whichever sector you go into, however different, I think there is much you can gain from the classes you take in UIC.

Hyojeong Park

Why did you choose to enrol in Carnegie Mellon University?

CMU is arguably the premier institution for studying Human-Computer Interaction, and it has a robust network of alumni working in the field.  Each HCI program has its strengths, but CMU has more focus on computing, an area I wanted to dive deeper into in my graduate years. 

How was your life as a UIC student? Could you share any memorable events from your school days?

I studied at Wellesley College for a year as an exchange student, which was a UIC-exclusive exchange program. Wellesley is located outside of Boston, and it has a breathtakingly beautiful campus. The academics were challenging, but it was the most memorable and fruitful year in my college life. An exchange student visa (J-1) in the U.S. allows you to do a paid internship, so look further into it if you’re interested! 

What is your plan after graduating Carnegie Mellon University?

I hope to build products for millions of users in the world. I’m most interested in technology assisting and enhancing human creativity. I wish to work on building a creative software that utilizes cutting-edge technology to power the artists and designers. 

What tips would you give to yourself as an undergraduate?

This may sound banal, but self-care is really, really important. If I could go back a few years, I’d eat healthy, exercise, and get the right help when needed.  On the first day of my internship that I worked so hard for, I almost passed out at work because of an unexpected health problem. Now I’m exercising every day and paying the debt to my body. If you start caring for yourself earlier, you’ll be able to achieve so much more.

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