That moment when you get an article request from World Learning, you not only get to reflect on how far you have come over the past few years, but also get to delightfully remind yourself how you are “Once a UGRAD, always a UGRAD.”
After getting my degree in Seoul, I moved back to the United States to work at the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in New York. I work in Consular Affairs at the moment and while I am grateful to be able to serve in this position, I am eager to find more ways that I can effectively and creatively contribute to build positive relationships across cultures. Especially since I am back here in the United States not as a student anymore but as a young professional, I genuinely want to have opportunities to give back to this community and the country that has a very special place in my heart.
I vividly remember the moment I arrived here in America for the very first time like it was yesterday. An officer who was interviewing me at the airport customs area all of a sudden mentioned “media.” I said, “Excuse me?” and he said, “I interview hundreds of people every day and can catch traits in a person easily. I can see that you’ll do great on cameras, so do look for opportunities in that field.” He will never know how that short conversation triggered my deepest passion and even led me to actually deliver news on camera here in the States. I had been already working in media in Korea back then (yes, the officer really saw through me!), but without his comment I wouldn’t have thought of not just being on camera, but even further, broadcasting news as an anchor in English – which isn’t even my first language. I had to pause the news report as I had to head back to Seoul to finish my school, but I very much enjoyed every second of it until then.
I later found out that people often get nervous during their interview at the airport with U.S. Customs, and getting “career advice” from an officer is something that doesn’t happen to everyone. I still think back and ask myself, “Would the officer know he once encouraged a girl, a student with so much passion and dreams during that short interview, and that it affected her life in such good ways?” I truly want to thank him and although I’m now focusing on helping people and making a positive impact in the public sector, I always think I can go back to broadcast/media at any time and keep pursuing my career in that field.
I sometimes receive messages from students all around the world asking for advice regarding how to be chosen as a finalist for the Global UGRAD Program. They thank me for my advice but in fact, I’m the one who wants to thank them for making me once again realize how truly fortunate I am to have had the opportunity that so many people desire, and be part of the honorable U.S. State Department exchange alumni network. I had no idea five years ago where I would be, and I don’t know where I will be or what I will be doing five years from now. Maybe I will be pursuing another career in media/broadcast, maybe I will be doing what I am doing now in a bigger field with more experience – nobody knows and I can only imagine. However, one thing I can say for sure is that I will never forget the passion and courage I developed as a Global UGRAD!
Chessy Kim, South Korea, Global UGRAD 2016-2017, Endicott College