Finishing up her first year at UW, geography major Ji Hae Hong has made the most of her short time on - and off - campus! Currently studying abroad in Leon, Spain, with the Department of Spanish & Portuguese Studies, Ji Hae spends four hours per day studying the Spanish language, with plenty of time left for exploring the city. And in the autumn, Ji Hae heads abroad once more for a quarter studying in South Korea! Before Ji Hae took off for Spain, she participated in a spring break career exploration trip to New York City organized by the UW Alumni Association. Here, Ji Hae describes the UWAA Career Trek, how this "huge opportunity for networking, learning, and growing" opened up career possibilities, and how all of these experiences are contributing to her time as a Husky transfer student!
On deciding to participate in the Career Trek & making travel arrangements: "I heard about the UWAA Career Trek in New York just by email. I was scrolling through my daily emails and all of a sudden this caught my eye because an opportunity to explore careers in New York with UW alumni seemed nothing short of amazing!
Travel arrangements were super easy! UWAA arranges all the flights and transportation for you, and all we had to do was get the itinerary and be on time! The cost of the program was not high at all, considering that it's New York. But there was an opportunity for additional funding if students met the need. I would say the cost for the program was definitely affordable as a student who works part-time and does school full-time."
A day-in-the-life during the trip: "In the morning we always had a brief meeting around 8am to go over the plan for the day, discuss any questions and ideas for the visits for the day, and a re-cap/reflection of the day before. Then we would head out and get started with our site visits. On one of the days we started at Morgan Stanley [investment banking]. You are provided with a full, detailed itinerary with LinkedIn profiles of the people that you are going to meet during the visits for that day so you can do in-depth research and prepare specific questions ahead of time. After Morgan Stanley, we headed to VirtualHealth [technology company]. We had a catered lunch there and then after we headed to International Flavors and Fragrances. Later that evening we had a Student/Alumni Mixer, which was one of my favorite parts of this career trek! The mixer ended around 8pm and we had the rest of the night to ourselves to explore the city even more if we wanted to."
Reflections on the experience: "One of the most surprising things from this experience was realizing how willing people in their professional careers were to support students. They literally will take the time out of their day to explore your interests with you, answer any of your questions, and/or just talk about life. I feel like it can be intimidating for students to approach higher-ups in companies or people in their professional careers in general, but this trek really made me realize how these people are not scary at all and they are very open to talking to students!
The most exciting thing was realizing how obtainable our dreams and goals actually are. Hearing people in their careers talk about their life and their journeys made me even more excited about my own dreams and goals!
Having a full schedule was totally worth it and every was very well planned out, but being 100% honest it was a bit tiring to have such a full schedule. You will be exhausted at the end of your days and tired the next morning. Other than that, this trip filled me to the brim with new growth, challenges, and excitement."
On future plans: "This experience has honestly been life-changing, and that is not an understatement. I wouldn't say it's for everyone, but I will say that if you're seeking growth and opportunity, and especially if you're a fast-paced city person, take up this opportunity to network and explore careers that are out there! Even if you don't see yourself moving to New York one day, it's a great experience to have under your belt with all the opportunity to get to know people in their professional careers. Every single person I met had a valuable piece of advice for life that I was able to take with me. For me, I went into this not really having my mind set on moving to New York, that was never a solid plan of mine, but after this trek I've realized that moving to New York is what I want to do with my life after I graduate. I don't see myself living there forever, but it's a place I see myself being able to grow and really launch my career pathway for after I graduate. I saw a lot of opportunities there that I want to pursue.
Also, this whole experience made me realize that students need to take advantage of the Career and Internship Center!!! They are there to help us and guide us in the right direction for success! I learned a lot about them during this trip and realized even I need to take advantage of these resources more."
On connections with the geography major: "Being a geography major means a lot of things to me and I can always find something that connects back to what I'm studying or what I'm interested in. Particularly, with the New York Career Trek, I was able to see and meet people who were studying subjects along similar lines of me and that was very cool to be able to connect on that kind of level. Sometimes I find it hard to try and explain to other people what my major is. I think a lot of people have this misunderstanding about how geography majors become these geographers that make maps or something, which can be the case, but that's not all there is to geography. The things that I'm taking from my education as a geography major applies to so many different aspects in life. And it's not just about being a geography major, it's about being a student. There are certain things that you learn just by being a student that'll prepare you for the real world after you graduate. I was able to hear stories about how student life in general helped people gain problem solving skills that they were able to use in their jobs. Furthermore, geography is about people and places, politics and international relations, research and statistics, inequalities and development, and so on! All of these things can be applied to multiple jobs across multiple companies everywhere. In New York there were a lot of jobs and companies that I was personally able to visit and saw a potential for working for one of them.
More specifically, I can give an example of a company that I visited which I felt a strong connection with as a geography major. I recently took GEOG 271 Geography of Food and Eating. In this class, there was a huge focus on environmental sustainability which I took very seriously. I know that there are many issues with bigger companies who take advantage of our world's natural resources. One of the companies that we visited had a huge discussion about environmental sustainability being a core value for them and how the CEO of their company was very passionate about that. That was huge for me because I think transparency, especially about that topic, is important in this day and age. So, it was really intriguing to hear about that, especially from a bigger company, and being able to ask questions right then and there."
On approaching the wide variety of opportunities at UW: "Anywhere I am and anywhere I go, I make sure I go with intention. My intentions for going on the NY Career Trek and studying abroad have everything to do with where I want to take myself in life! The people I meet and the things I learn from each place adds that much more value to my experiences. No matter where I go, I learn something new that helps me in one way or another. Being able to go to so may different places definitely gives me huge opportunities for networking with people from everywhere. What I realized in New York is that any and all experiences you have under your belt before you graduate and start looking for a career as a 'real' adult is going to help you! Not everything is about 'work' or 'in-office' experience. Successful companies and even start-ups are going to look for people with potential and people who are willing to continue to learn and grow. They're not looking for a perfect student that knows how to memorize things and get straight A's. And for me, studying abroad and learning in multiple different environments is giving me a wide variety of experiences in so many different aspects, offering me experiences of a life time through many challenges and diving in towards growth!"
Advice for transfer students to make the most of their time at UW: "UW is such a big school that it may seem intimidating at times and overwhelming especially as a transfer student. But you have to realize that big schools also come with a ton of resources. Don't wait for people to tell you what to do, you have to take action and make your own choices in order to succeed! As a UW student I've realized that you have everything you need (and more) in order to make things happen! Read the emails, take note of all the fliers and promotions posted around campus, talk to your advisors, get to know your professors - these are all little things, but they sure add up. All you have to do is start with minimal effort and that'll take you a long ways. Another important thing to take note of is to apply for things even if you don't think you'll get in! I've been rejected from more than just a few things, but the amount of times that I've gotten into things that I didn't expect to surprises me every time. Lastly, make sure you know what you want to get out of each experience, class, etc. I think it's important to stay focused on your passions and to have goals."