Ah-young Kim received a B.S. in Foreign Service and an undergraduate certificate in Asian Studies from Georgetown University in 2000. Since her time with Georgetown University, Ms. Kim has made many achievements in her career. Among her most recent accomplishments, Ms. Kim currently works at the United Nations as a Political Affairs Officer. She works within the Security Council Affairs Division, Department of Political Affairs. Below is our short interview with Ms. Kim:
1. Please tell us about yourself and your interest in Asian Studies.
I grew up in the US and moved back to Korea when I was thirteen. I experienced the turmoil and challenges of Korean politics – student demonstrations against the Government, tensions in North-South Korea relations, hopes for unification – as well as the rise of China. Amidst this background, I wanted to learn both the theoretical and human side of international relations in the Asia-Pacific region. Georgetown was the natural choice for me to explore such studies and I majored in International Politics with a focus on Foreign Policy & Policy Processes and a Certificate in Asian Studies.
2. How did the Asian Studies Certificate program prepare you for the professional challenges and opportunities you face today?
Georgetown’s faculty really taught me the theoretical and practical learning and skills necessary to prepare me for the professional world. You not only had to think critically, but express yourself clearly, utilizing both your understanding of theory as well as conceptualizing how this would apply or play out in the real world. I remember writing policy memos, presenting a PowerPoint on the Asian Financial crisis, applying concepts of international law on a certain case and being inspired by a certain professor’s way of analyzing political figures. Even to this day, in my professional life and work here at the United Nations, I appreciate my undergraduate learning!
The Asian Studies Certificate program was an excellent opportunity to work closely with a professor (as an advisor) and to explore in depth topics, beyond the scope of your regular academic work. I focused on Korean unification issues, testing out different IR concepts to this. It was also a great way to discuss ideas and issues with other students who were in the programme and had their own diverse topics. Professors guided us and inspired us, but didn’t push us in one way or other. They respected our theories and views. However, I also felt that the program was a personal challenge – to push yourself to research and write about something that you care about.
3. If you could pick one issue of critical importance to Asia today, what would it be and why?
Although we claim to be more globalized than ever, you still see nationalism and domestic trends impacting views and policies. The key is trying to connect all the dots – economics, politics, culture, attitudes, laws and security. It seems obvious but you would be surprised to see how little this is taken into account and how Asia is lumped together – Asia is a vast region, composed of multiple States, languages, nationalities and peoples.
Another critical issue of importance are the what I like to call second tier issues (beyond security, politics, peace and security etc.) – such as the environment, climate change, gender equality, development, human security, quality of life, ethics, rule of law and resources. These will create complex challenges for decision makers ahead.
4. What advice would you give to our prospective/current students?
There is so much pressure and competition for students trying to get into a good university or college and also pressure for students to find security (i.e. job) after graduation. Amidst these pressing realities, try to figure out or explore what interests you. What are you passionate about? What excites you? Try out different classes and even the study abroad option. College is the time to develop your passions and academics. Another important skill that I would advise is for students to have language skills (beyond English). Being able to speak two or three+ languages is definitely an asset.
"Georgetown’s faculty really taught me the theoretical and practical learning and skills necessary to prepare me for the professional world. You not only had to think critically, but express yourself clearly, utilizing both your understanding of theory as well as conceptualizing how this would apply or play out in the real world."