Four UIC Alumni Describe Their Pursuit for Postgraduate Studies
by UIC Scribe
Juho Lee (IS ’17), Yoona Cho (ECON ’18), Jungwon Choi (CLC ’19), Yu Kyeong Lee (CLC ’19)
Taesoo Song is a graduate of Underwood International College (UIC) who was admitted in to the highly prestigious Korea Foundation for Advanced Studies (KFAS) scholarship program. He majored in economics at UIC and has been working as a researcher at the Seoul Institute, the official think-tank for the Seoul Metropolitan Government. His most recent work there focuses on coming up with an inclusive economic development plan for downtown Seoul.
What was the application process like for KFAS?
The application process is highly competitive and consists of three steps: document screening, written exams, and interviews. The written exams were four-hours-long and evaluated applicants' English skills and knowledge in their respective majors. The interview was very thorough; professors asked questions about my past research and future research plans.
In your opinion, what was the most decisive factor in being accepted into the scholarship program?
Although the program evaluates applicants holistically, I believe there were three decisive factors in being accepted: undergraduate GPA, English skills, and knowledge and interests in my field.
Graduate programs, particularly doctoral programs, are very demanding, requiring you to read countless articles and books, study numerous theories, produce and analyze data, and ultimately make a unique contribution to the field. Many graduate programs and scholarship programs will see your efforts as an undergraduate student as an important measure of past and future academic success.
I feel lucky to have received rigorous academic training in English at UIC. The English sections of the written exams were very challenging. In particular, I was asked to write an English essay on a hotly debate issue in Korean society. I do not think most students who studied in Korea would have had the chance to read long texts and write papers in English every week.
Lastly, scholarship programs look for students who have a clear idea of which questions they seek to answer in their post-graduate studies. I knew what I wanted to study and managed to effectively communicate to the evaluators why my research interests were significant.
What advice would you give freshmen or sophomore students who are looking for an opportunity to receive scholarships for their post graduate studies?
Enjoy your academic life at Yonsei University. Get to know your professors, make friendships, do your assignments, seek in-campus research opportunities, and participate in club activities. They will be invaluable to you as you start asking why you want to pursue a post-graduate career, what your research interests are, and what kind of person you ultimately wish to be. These experiences will be crucial as you write your research statements and prepare for interviews.
I also advise you to focus on your courses. If you are pursuing graduate programs, you will likely spend much more time studying. Many institutions such as KFAS, Fulbright, and the Korean Government Scholarship Program consider your GPA to be an indicator of future academic success. You can gain more research experiences after graduation, but you cannot change your GPA.
Hayoung Cho started school in 2014 and majored in Creative Technology Management at UIC. She is currently in her second semester for the Master of Science in Applied Analytics program at Columbia University.
Why did you choose to apply to the Master of Science in Applied Analytics program at Columbia University?
While CTM allowed me to explore diverse subjects within the technology industry—such as data science, management, entrepreneurship—I wanted to delve deeper into the more technical aspects of the field. The Applied Analytics program seemed to be the best fit because it teaches you how to apply programming languages and analysis tools to solve real-life business problems. Also, looking at alumni profiles on LinkedIn and reaching out to hear their perspective on the program helped me come to this decision.
What do you see yourself doing after finishing your graduate degree?
Over the summer, I will be working as a graduate summer intern in the financial industry tasked specifically with quantitative risk management. I will be developing and analyzing quantitative models that assess the credit risk, market risk and/or operational risk of new financial products as well as different types of already existing portfolios. I have previously done many internships in diverse fields from public relations, consulting, professional services, to pharmaceutical industry, but it is my first time working in the financial sector with a technical role. I am very excited about the experience and if I enjoy the work, I might return upon graduation.
How was your life as a UIC student? Could you share any memorable experiences from your school days that you think are important?
I definitely enjoyed hanging out with friends, traveling, and meeting new people in my freshman year. I also miss school festivals such as Akaraka and Yonko games. Looking back, I think the intimate, seminar-style learning environment of UIC really opened up opportunities to build constructive relationships with my fellow classmates, friends, and professors. Such an environment should not be taken for granted. Outside of class, I was able to work on various independent projects such as writing a research paper on gamification using Python. I am truly grateful for professor Keeheon Lee and Jung Hoon Lee, who were always willing to offer help and advice. Lastly, the semester I spent at Georgia Tech as an exchange student broadened my horizons in the field of programming and analytics, and I definitely recommend taking full advantage of the exchange student program at Yonsei.
What advice would you give students at UIC to best prepare for life both during and after college?
A general piece of advice would be to not underestimate yourself. Do not be afraid of trying new things because you never know where it would lead you to. I never knew I would be where I am today, pursuing such a technical field in the U.S. Also, participate in diverse programs offered both within and outside of school. I realized working to figure out your interest and finding a place to share it is extremely important, especially when you can meet like-minded people working for the same goal. Lastly, learn to reach out to upperclassmen or anyone working in the field you are interested in through platforms such as LinkedIn. It provides you a realistic picture of what a job or a post graduate program is actually like. Ask questions and demonstrate your interest!
Jeongyeop Kim started school in 2017 an dmajored in Justice and Civil Leadership (JCL). He started attending Kyungpook National University Law School this spring.
Why did you choose law school?
I chose to pursue law school because I want to help others within a field of expertise that I can be good at and enjoy. Four years of taking JCL courses introduced me to the field of law; hence my decision to go to law school was a no-brainer. Thankfully, I was given the opportunity to study at Kyungpook National University law school and started studying there this spring. Moreover, I wish to practice law in both Korea and California. As licensees of the Korean bar exam are automatically given the qualification to take the bar exam in California, going to a Korean law school seemed to be the logical choice.
What career path do you see yourself taking after law school?
My goal has always been to pursue a legal career, but I do not have a particular field in mind. Regardless of the path I take, I aim to pursue a career that will allow me to help others and do work that I consider meaningful.
How has your experience at Yonsei prepared you for law school? Are there any specific courses, student clubs, or professors that come to mind?
I remember how Professor Park and Professor Phillips encouraging me to participate in moot court competitions. Thanks to their advice, I formed my own moot court team during junior year and participated in two moot court competitions where we performed well and received awards. This experience was extremely helpful not only for my law school application, but also in realizing my passion for studying law.
Course-wise, ‘Philosophy of Law’ aided me in preparing for law school interviews. Surprisingly enough, two of the concepts we assessed in class were on my interviews.
What advice would you give students that are aspiring to go to law school?
Study hard, read a lot of books, and strive to make the best out of the many experiences you will have during your undergraduate years. On school forums like Everytime and Seiyonnet, I see a lot of UIC students discouraged from applying to Korean law schools because all UIC courses are conducted in English. That isn’t a concern, but rather a skill you can play to your advantage. Who wouldn’t want students fluent in both English and Korean?
Some UIC students are discouraged because of the LEET exam. However, at the end of the day, the LEET tests your overall reading comprehension ability and surprisingly enough, your English reading skills and Korean skills have a great deal in common. Never be discouraged!
Please feel free to contact me with any questions about applying to law school. I will be more than pleased/ honored to reply back with answers to fellow Yonsei alumni.
Ha Youn Noh majored in Information and Interaction Design (IID) while attending UIC and is currently in her second semester of the Human Computer Interaction (HCI) master's degree program at University College London (UCL).
Why did you choose to study HCI at UCL?
I applied to several HCI programs. I was confident that I wanted to study this field and become a researcher or professor in the future. Majoring in IID was extremely helpful because IID gives students an option to choose between either a design or HCI related track, allowing me to study HCI as an undergrad.
I chose UCL after I read the faculty papers, their research interests, and how many papers they publish per year, all of which is extremely important if you want to do a Ph.D. I found that my research interest is very similar to that of the UCL faculty. UCL also offered a more solid academic program that values practicality in HCI compared to other schools.
What do you see yourself doing after finishing your graduate degree?
My final goal is to become a member of faculty at a university, a long held dream of mine. So I'm currently applying for Ph.D. programs. However, I'm also looking at options to work because I'm currently in Europe and there are lots of jobs here related to HCI research.
While it is true that UCL has a great Ph.D. program, my research interest has shifted a bit recently during my postgraduate studies. I plan to do my Ph.D. at a school where I can pursue that.
What advice would you give current students at UIC? Any memorable experiences that you strongly recommend?
I did a lot jobs in many diverse fields in undergrad, like marketing, user research. I even worked as a freelance designer and an SAT tutor. At the time I thought it wasn't leading anywhere; to me my experience wasn't organized or relevant to my future career path.
But I realize now that that's why I was able to choose this field. Eliminating your career choices is really important because that leads you to find what you like to do the most. So even if a job sounds irrelevant and it's something you wouldn't want to do in the future, give it a shot if time allows. There will be something you can gain from that experience that is relevant to your field of interest.
I also want to tell UIC students that you should be confident in yourself and your UIC education. I was initially scared that everyone would be better than me at UCL as many come from prestigious schools, and I felt very intimidated. I only realized after graduation that UIC actually provides a great education, so you will never be one of those people who struggle. Whether you go into a big firm, a prestigious master's program, or become a freelance worker, you should be confident in yourself and your education!