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Hyunjune Lee, MSW '17

  • Practice Method Concentration:
    Social Policy and Evaluation
  • Practice Area:
    Children and Youth
  • Country:
    South Korea

What prompted you to apply for U-M SSW?

What first drew my attention to U-M SSW was the fact that it is one of the best social work schools in the world. The school's' renowned name would not only benefit my "marketability" both in the U.S. and South Korea after graduation but also ensure that I will get to study with and learn from some of the brightest, highly experienced and most diverse cohort.

Moreover, U-M has a number of top-ranked schools and departments of different academic disciplines. Considering that social work is an applied social science which integrates theoretical perspectives and ideas from different academic disciplinaries, being a student at U-M SSW would mean that I could also have opportunities for the quality interdisciplinary learning, which would eventually help me acquire rich social science backgrounds.

How has been / was the learning experience for you?

Overall, I truly liked the learning experience at U-M SSW, but I especially loved the fact that I was able to work with and learn from the students from diverse populations, cultural backgrounds, and interests. Such learning environment always challenged me to question whether I had thought right was truly right and ultimately broaden my view on the society.

Another thing that I appreciated was that U-M SSW has built strong ties with the local communities, and many of the courses were designed to benefit the communities. The division between the academia and the field in social work has always been a problem, but I thought that the faculty and students at U-M SSW were trying really hard to make our learning within the academia also meaningful for the field and communities that we live in. In many of the assignments that I had to work on, I had to either directly collaborate with the social workers at the field level or at least come up with study results that would benefit the community, which was not easy for sure but meaningful.

What are / were the challenging aspects and what helped?

Adjusting to the life and culture in the U.S. was challenging to me, and I believe that it is a challenge for any international student. For me, the international student community within U-M SSW was very helpful in terms of having a sense of community, although I have to admit that I was not the most active member in the community. Still, I felt comfortable and safe in the community, and moreover, I appreciated that it was not only a place for students but also for their families as well.

Another thing that I struggled with was being familiar with the U.S.-specific contexts and social issues. In many of the classes that I took at U-M SSW, a large portion of the class time was given for students to discuss the implications of contemporary social issues within the U.S. It was a bit of a pressure for me at first, but reading newspapers and listening to radio on a daily basis helped me a lot to become familiar and comfortable with the issues in the U.S., which ultimately fostered my learning.

What are/ were the significant experiences / changes that had occurred to you while you have been/ were in U-M? Provide specific experience if possible.

The most significant change that occurred to me while at U-M SSW has been the change of perspective as a social work student. Before coming to the school, studying social work to me meant that I learn the external factors in the society which is static; however, as I got to learn how my identity matters and how intersectionality plays a role in the ways that we view and experience the world, I began to focus more on my own identities and where I stand on the crossing axis of oppression and privileges.

What will you like to tell prospective or incoming students?

Reach out proactively to the staff and faculty at the school for resources and potential opportunities that could be beneficial for achieving your academic and/or career goals. There are way too many opportunities that you do not want to miss, but you would have to actively search for it rather than wait until someone reaches out to you with such information.

Also, this would be a somewhat pedestrian advice, but definitely make time for self care. I would especially recommend going out and having fun outdoors when the weather is nice. The Winter in Ann Arbor is not only harsh and grey but long. So enjoy it while the sunshine lasts!

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