Reaching The Washington Center internship program was an arduous journey for South Korean student Minseok Kim.
His university was not affiliated with TWC, scholarships were scarce and his English proficiency was below average. Undeterred, Minseok made the program and attributes his experience with encouraging him to explore the world more.
When did you come to TWC and where did you intern?
I participated in TWC Spring 2016. I worked at GIC Group, an international agribusiness company with two partner offices abroad. The company provides consulting services focusing on international trade, investment and agribusiness for public and private clients.
What prompted you to start looking for an internship in the United States?
Going from Korea to teach students in Surabaya, Indonesia taught me that the world is really big and there is huge potential for me to positively change the world. My first experience living in a foreign country broadened my view of the world. Among the many countries to choose from, I wanted to go to the United States as I dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur. I read articles describing the U.S. venture capital system and watched videos about pursuing the American dream from people from many countries, including my home country of Korea.
Why did you choose this program over other internship programs?
After finishing my military service, I searched for internship programs that had scholarship assistance available. The TWC program was one of those giving a scholarship to students studying at Korean universities with cooperation agreements. Unfortunately, my university did not have one, but I really wanted to join this program. I reached out to TWC explaining who I was and why I desired to participate in their program. They helped me a lot and arranged for me to attend an info session and encouraged me to apply for an International Leaders Award that would help me attend TWC.
What was the most impactful experience or memorable encounter during your time in Washington, D.C.?
The experience I had in D.C. with friends from various backgrounds helped me to see myself more objectively, which changed my point of view. I come from a society where people worry about others’ opinion. I was impressed to see people dancing wildly during a snow shower. They did not care that other people saw them or what they thought about what they were doing. They were truly enjoying what they did. When I asked my friend, he told me 'who cares what anyone thinks.’ That taught me realize that it is okay to act on what I want and not worry so much about what others want to see. That also helps me think about what I really love and how I wish to spend my life.
Describe briefly what it was like to intern at your organization. How has it affected your professional development?
My role was similar to that of the consultants: analyze scenarios based on facts and statistics, then recommend the best solution for our clients. I researched issues related to agribusiness, including carbon emission market for futures sales, blockchain technology application into supply chain and new technology analysis in agribusiness. That experience exploring various areas of the agribusiness sector and blockchain helped guide my career decisions after returning to Korea. I also had to handle the language issue. I really wanted to improve my English skills and demonstrate that I was a very competent intern. During meetings, I always made a one page summary and asked native English speakers to review it afterward to make sure I had noted everything correctly.
How would you describe TWC and its impact to a fellow international student considering a TWC internship?
Being part of TWC, you are with more than 250 students from 33 different countries. That makes for great access to different peoples and cultures, all in one place. That might not be something you can do in your home. The more friends I talked to at TWC, the more I learned about the diversity of their thinking, backgrounds, and cultures. All of them were quite different from my experience in Korea. Also because of TWC, you can meet people working at places like the World Bank, IMF, startups, venture capital firms, IBM, investment banks that are all located in D.C. TWC is an eye-opening experience. If you dream of doing something meaningful, TWC would be a great opportunity for you.
When you encountered a challenge or struggle, how did you deal with it? What resources did you rely on?
I always try to face a problem, even if it is challenging, and figure out the best solution. The most constant challenge I faced during TWC was addressing my English skills. To overcome it, I asked for help from the many native English speakers in the program. For example, I would ask my friends to review anything that I had to write or submit. I knew they were helping me by doing this. I wished to give them something in exchange for the help and that was to treat my friends to Korean dishes that I cooked for them. I also took the initiative to join speaking clubs hosted by TWC or George Washington University.
I tried many ways to achieve my goal and this experience gave me the confidence that I can overcome any difficulties.
What is the single greatest benefit TWC provides to international students such as yourself?
Diversity. The experiences with many friends who come from various countries is an explicit benefit for me. I don’t have the experience of living in multiple foreign countries for several months at a time. In Washington, D.C., you can explore 40 countries in a short period of time. That time at TWC helped me learn a lot about diversity by living, studying and working with people from around the world, and broaden my perspective through experiencing a variety of cultures.
What benefits, if any, has your TWC internship provided to your current job or studies?
TWC inspired me to not give up, no matter what obstacles are in my way. Whenever I face a serious problem, I am reminded that I almost dropped out of the TWC program entirely. The process to join was really difficult. My university was not partnered with TWC, I had to find a way in and find scholarships to get there, and I was not totally fluent in English. But in retrospect, these experiences have become a driving force. I started a blockchain tech startup in June 2018 after majoring in business, which is quite far from technology. There are always challenges for me to understand the technology, to communicate with developers, and even persuade clients who worked as developers. I vividly dream of applying myself on the global market. Without my TWC experience, I might have settled for less than my dreams.