Ms. Jane Yoona Chung is a dual MPA/MAIR student in the Department of Public Administration and International Affairs. She will be completing her dual degree program in Summer 2016.
During Summer 2015, I completed my internship at the US Korean Institute (USKI) at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) as Johns Hopkins University. As a program and research intern for USKI, I was responsible for several tasks, one being attending events on behalf of the research institute. This gave me the opportunity to be exposed to and meet experts from the larger East Asia foreign policy community in Washington D.C. Examples of institutes included the The Asan Institute for Policy Studies, Korea Economic Institute (KEI), Sejong Society of Washington D.C., the Brookings Institution, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
Once or twice a week, I attended workshops and/or talks all over the D.C. area. One workshop that stood out to me was a simulation on post-reunification of the Korean Peninsula. Attendees were divided into groups comprised of experts, students, and visiting North Korean scholars. This workshop was an especially humbling experience as I was able to hear from the North Korean perspective on reunification first hand. Moreover, meeting the North Korean students was a fascinating encounter, one that I will never forget. Other talks and conferences I attended discussed the Russian role in East Asia, the tense relations between South Korea and Japan, and the North Korean nuclear program. Learning and hearing from experts, political officials, and academics was very rewarding as it refined and expanded my knowledge and curiosity in East Asian foreign policy.
In addition to the talks and conferences, USKI hosted its first student exchange program with Ajou University in South Korea. This exchange program brought 30 college students, from a variety of majors, to spend a month in Washington D.C. to learn about American politics, history, and culture. I was both a discussion leader that led class in the afternoon and a “guide” for afternoon site visits around Washington D.C. This gave me the opportunity to visit organizations all over the city and to attend a Washington Nationals baseball game for free!
As part of my internship, I was also responsible for conducting independent research on a current topic related to the Korean Peninsula. I presented my research to the Staff on the implications of a land bridge that would connect the Russian Far East and North Korea. With this project, I communicated with experts and had access to a plethora of resources from USKI and Johns Hopkins University (a perk of working with a university). To be able to complete this research project on top of the other responsibilities taught me how to juggle multiple responsibilities with finesse.
At the same time of my internship, I also took courses through the Maxwell-in-Washington program at CSIS. While it was a bit tiring to take courses in the evening right after a full day at my internship, I would still recommend taking a course. These courses are taught my experts in the field and are conducted as a seminar rather than a lecture.
Being in Washington D.C. was an eye-opening experience as it challenged me personally and professionally. During my internship and stay, I learned about the culture of think tanks, the hustle and bustle of the nation’s capital, and the immense beauty of the nation’s history. Although I worked full-time, Washington D.C. makes it easy to still have a social life after hours and on weekends. Friday evenings were spent enjoying a glass of sangria at Jazz at the Garden or getting a nice warm bowl of duck noodles in Chinatown. Weekends were spent traveling throughout the city on the $1 DC Circulator, free museums, free movie screenings, or hiking through Rock Creek Park. Balancing between professional and personal aspects of my experience was a challenge, but all in all, I would describe my internship experience in Washington D.C. to be humbling and rewarding.