Monday, February 25, 2013

Student Spotlight: Shanah Lee

This week, our Student Spotlight is focused on Shanah Lee, a first-year MA student concentrating in Conflict Management and China Studies.  Shanah received her BA in International Development from University of California, Los Angeles, in 2008.  Prior to studying at SAIS, Shanah worked at the Korean Consulate in Seattle, WA, and researched human rights violations and policies in North and South Korea.

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Can you tell us about your concentration, and why you chose it?
Graduate school has allowed me to study what I’m most interested in and passionate about: Conflict Management and China.  Having only lived in Korea and United States all my life, I also thought this would be a great opportunity to challenge myself and study a field/area that I am not too familiar with.  I was enticed by the mediation and negotiation aspect of Conflict Management: encouraging students to travel and conduct research in a region of conflict, learning from actual practitioners as well as scholars in the field, and inviting students to real-world mediation and negotiation practices.  In addition, the China Studies program offers diverse classes on China, so students can cater the classes to their interest. My Contemporary Chinese Politics, US-China Relations, Grassroots China classes have been amazing; not only are they taught by renowned scholars, but they also bring together a group of talented and experienced students who offer new perspectives to the discussions.
What language(s) are you studying? How does the language component complement your study of international relations?
I am bilingual in English and Korean, and proficient in Chinese and Spanish.  I’m currently taking Intermediate Mid Chinese and Superior Korean, which is a post-proficiency Korean language course.  I spend five hours a week studying Chinese and two hours Korean.  My fellow classmates are just as enthusiastic and interested in learning new language and culture.  I was first surprised by how small and close-knit these classes are, compared to the large class sized I experienced in undergrad.  Each one of us receives enough attention from the language instructor and we all feel comfortable speaking around each other.  I believe it is your proficiency in a foreign language that will get you the internship and job of your dreams!  I think SAIS does a good job of integrating language to the overall curriculum.
You just began a new internship. Where are you interning, and what type of work will you be doing?
This semester I am interning at an organization called American Academy of Diplomacy, a non-profit organization that promotes and educates American diplomacy to the general public, provides crucial support and assistance to the American diplomatic community.  I found this position through SAISworks, a career-related database offered by SAIS.  During the interview, I learned that the Program Coordinator is a SAIS alum, which made me feel more comfortable speaking about my experience, strengths, and contributions to the Academy.  She also gave me advice regarding my classes and career, and is very supportive of everything, and is flexible with my schedule.  Interns assist with the organization’s outreach effort, by utilizing social media to foster public awareness.  We also manage Academy’s membership, which is composed of former US ambassadors and senior-level government officials.  I had a chance to meet a former ambassador who served in Russia and Eastern Europe; we had an interesting discussion about US and Soviet Union relations, and how this affects US-China relations.  Having learned about the Boxer Rebellion and Truman Doctrine just a week before, I was able to actively engage and apply what I learned with someone who lived through the history!
We’ve already discussed language skills. What are some of the other specific skills you’ve been developing since you’ve enrolled at SAIS?
Coming to SAIS with no extensive background in Economics, I found the classes challenging but rewarding at the same time.  Understanding numerous micro and macro concepts has helped me to understand the world economy with critical and keen eye.  Before SAIS, I read the world news to gain information and learn the ‘what’; I now read them asking myself the ‘how’ and ‘why’, as well as the impact these events have in the region and the global community.  Taking small, discussion-based courses teaches me to organize my views concisely and present in front of peers, something I hadn’t acquired before.  In addition, various skills course and Career Center-sponsored events connect students and alums to ask questions, seek advice, and gain critical skills that we can directly apply in the field.  Building lasting relationships and networking are also important; I think SAIS provides me ample opportunities to attend various events to acquaint myself with fellow students, faculty members and alumni.
What are your post-graduation plans?
Before coming to SAIS, I was pretty set on pursuing a career in US Foreign Service.  Before I graduate, I hope to gain as much experience and skills as possible, so when I finally join the Foreign Service in the future, I will be more prepared and ready to face the challenges there.
Thanks for reading!
— Erin Skelly Cameron, Associate Director of Admissions
To read previous entries in our Student Spotlight series, please click here.