BY HAEUN CHOI, REPORTER
Haseung Joung and Seihoon Lee, both freshmen global affairs majors, represented Mason Korea in the 2018 WFUNA College Leaders at the United Nations: Korea Program from this April to August. As one of the 25 selected Korean students from 15 U.S. and Korean institutions, Joung and Lee researched on specific Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 2030, and presented their policy recommendations to staff members at the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) and U.N. member Missions at the New York U.N. Headquarters. The Voice decided to interview with the students about their notable experience.
How did you get to know about the opportunity and become interested?
Joung: I have always been interested in international issues and U.N., and was aware Mason Korea was a part of the program even before I was accepted, but I wanted to spend my freshman year getting used to university and building my knowledge. Once I saw posters about the program around school this year, I decided to send in my application.
Lee: I was aware of the program since my first semester, but then, I felt that I was not prepared and that I needed to grow in knowledge and wisdom to be able to actively participate in the program. Thus, compelling me to discover the world of the U.N. through this program.
Could you explain the preparation process for the journey to U.N. after you were selected?
Joung and Lee: The whole program is a four-month journey. We had three weeks of training in Seoul which consisted of lectures about the assigned SDGs and honing professional skills such as how to communicate with professionals. During training time, we were given time to think about our targeted area of research in the realm of the SDG.
After teams were organized based on each SDG, we went into a three month period of preparing for our presentation in New York. We were supposed to find a topic that had a related target within in the assigned SDG and develop an action plan according to it.
After furnishing our presentation in Korea, we headed off to NYC to begin the real program. The program in NYC was consisted of U.N. tours, lectures and sessions with U.N. professionals, NGO founders, and U.N. delegates from various countries. All of the sessions were based on our topics that the teams were researching. In our free time, we had the time to prepare and finalize our presentations and tour around New York.
How was the whole experience and what was the most impressive?
Juong: I can say with confidence it was one of the highlights of my year. Through this process, I learned so much from incredible people and gained confidence in the path I am on. Other than the professional lessons, I also gained personal life lessons by working with people from diverse disciplines and backgrounds. I gained insight and different perspectives on various issues.
Lee: The experience was fantastic. It was a special time for me to think about my possible career in the United Nations and find if it fits me well or not. Also, I was surprised by the fact that the characteristics of the United Nations system almost resembles a national government. The whole session has equipped me with critical thinking skills. The program, also, was a great stage to network with different Korean people. I had the honor to work with such talented and intelligent students of each universities.
What would you tell the students at GMUK to prepare for in the future program?
Joung: Above all, be confident! I think one of the most memorable lessons I learned through this program is that being active, asking lots questions and showing your assets in a confident and professional manner will take you a long way. This program gives you a platform to practice and hone those skills, which are crucial for the future! You gain results based on how much effort you input. You can either make it a couple of months working on a presentation, or make it into an opportunity to transform this experience into something bigger. So, immerse yourself and make it into your own.
Lee: I would recommend this program to any of the students at GMUK who want a glimpse of the UN. About the phrase, “to reach out to people and actively try things that interest you,” after this program, I ultimately think this is true. If we do not connect with the Korean environment, it is difficult to figure out your way in Korea after graduation. Since we live in a hybrid environment that contains both Korean and American elements, it essential to take sectors in external activities outside the school. The WFUNA College Leaders of the United Nations is appropriate for such means. You never know what you might experience.