Thanks to a generous Korea Foundation program, Asia Library is able to welcome a full-time intern from Korea to its staff every year. These bright, motivated young people learn many facets of library work while here, making this a win-win situation for both parties. This year's intern, Yujin Choi, kindly sat down with me to talk about her experience.
What is your educational background, and what led you to apply for the Korea Foundation internship?
I have a B.A. in Library and Information Science from Ewha Womans University and received my MLIS from there, too. I also studied Japanese literature at Kyoto University, Japan.
At the time I applied for this internship, I had one more semester to complete towards my master’s degree. So I hoped to gain real-world experience working at a library for my next step, especially at a library in the U.S., because many of my LIS classes always emphasized U.S. libraries as exemplary models of how libraries should be managed and operated. This internship sponsored by the Korea Foundation is really extraordinary because it actually pays me a salary for working at the University of Michigan Library.
Had you been to the US before? What has surprised you about life here?
This is my first time.
The thing that surprised me is that people don't seem to be in a hurry. For example, people don’t push the “close” button in the elevator, don’t mind waiting in long check-out lines, and always hold the door open for the next person to enter. I feel like I'm living a more relaxed life compared to life in Korea.
What do you think about Asia Library and the University of Michigan Library?
About the Asia Library, although I had expected it, the work environment is truly international. It is amazing that people from different countries, such as the United States, Korea, Japan, and China, are working together so effectively. Even if people from the same background work together, there are definitely difficulties, but I am impressed that people from different backgrounds are striving together and forming a great Asia Library. It was also interesting that there are many more students and researchers who are studying Asian studies than I had expected. And I was surprised by the big collections.
About the University of Michigan Library, what surprised me the most was the number of librarians and staff and the size of the library. The basic role of the library is almost the same in academic libraries in South Korea. While the number of students at research universities in Korea is not very different, there are significant differences in the size of libraries. I am very envious of the fact that this library has a lot of people who can make the library play a pivotal role in campus life. In addition, the meetings and trainings for librarians and staff on a wide variety of topics are impressive.
What have you missed the most about Korea?
What I have missed the most about Korea is sharing small happinesses with my family or friends in daily life. For example, after having family dinner, talking about everything, even trifling things, while taking a walk near my house, or hanging out at the cafe in front of the university with my friends after class. I thought I would not feel lonely, since I had lived abroad alone before. Though I have made friends here, it still cannot solve loneliness. Except for this, everything is fine.
How has this experience shaped your thoughts and plans for your future? What are your plans after you complete this internship?
I decided to go for a Ph.D.
When I came here, I had not determined my next step and was just open to all possibilities. So personally, deciding on my next career was my top priority during the internship period. This internship program not only gives me a chance to become aware of how a research library works, but also helps me to think about my future while meeting people from various backgrounds. Besides, as is well known, the University of Michigan Library is a very good research library, so I have been able to read many new good books about my research interests. As a result, I have been able to get a broader perspective than before, and above all, I realized that I really love information science and libraries, and I got to know my specific areas of interest. So, I want to go to the doctoral course of a graduate school in the U.S. to study the questions that have arisen from this experience.
What advice would you give to our next Korea Foundation intern?
When you first come to the Asia Library, you may feel that this library has more Asian culture than you thought, or you may feel that this place is more international than you thought. However, no matter how different it is from your expectations, adapting well to the new environment is the same everywhere. Including head of the Asia Library, Dawn, all the librarians and staff are very generous to interns, so if you are punctual, listen carefully to what librarians and staff say, and ask politely what you do not know, you will have various learning opportunities. Also, this internship program is a great opportunity to understand the differences between the U.S. and Korea: not only about library settings but also about cultures and lifestyles. What I have seen in my own experience is truly different from what I saw on American TV shows or dramas before coming here. Additionally, Ann Arbor is an excellent place to experience life in the U.S., safe and fun. Pay attention to information about events and enjoy your life both inside and outside of the library.