By: Clarissa Macias-Martinez
As a third-year East Asian Studies major, spending an entire summer in Seoul is an academic dream come true. Ten weeks in an intensive language course would not only further prepare me on my academic journey, but it would also allow for personal growth and independence. A month ago, studying abroad this summer seemed completely out of my future. I was convinced I was going to stay in the U.S., and consequently I spent the entirety of my time desperately searching for any summer opportunity. Nights of writing cover letters, submitting applications, and hoping for responses transformed me into a ball of stressed and sleep-deprived nerves. Defeated, I woke up one morning and headed to my Korean language class. Everything seemed normal, until my Korean professor asked me to stay behind after class. My professor sat across from me and asked, “Do you want to go to Korea this summer?” With one nod and a smile, my future plans were suddenly changed and I was given the amazing opportunity to become a Cho fellow and to spend 10 weeks studying Korean in Seoul.
Moving forward a few weeks, I, along with the other two Cho fellows, met the Cho family and we could finally express our gratitude. During dinner, we learned of the Cho family’s dedication to the advancement of Korean studies as well as their devotion to promoting the Korean language, Buddhist studies, and even the construction of a Buddhist temple in New York. In the intimate space of a Lincoln Center restaurant, we had the great opportunity to also meet professors, faculty, and other kind individuals who have become incredibly important to Columbia’s Korean studies program. We heard about the academic journeys of various faculty members and had a fruitful discussion about the future of Korean Studies in the United States. It was truly an honor to be seated amongst such passionate and dedicated individuals during dinner. Hearing about the journeys of faculty and the Cho family only further affirmed my passion for Korean studies and made me extremely excited for this summer to arrive.
Therefore, due to the kind generosity of the Cho family, this year marks the commencement of the Cho Fellowship at Columbia University. The Korean program has selected three students enrolled in Korean language courses—one freshman, one sophomore, and one junior—to be the first cohort for the Cho Fellowship. As fellows, we will all spend our summer studying at one of Seoul’s top universities. Between studying at Yonsei, Sogang, and Ewha University, we will take full advantage of this incredible opportunity in order to advance our grasp of Korean. In my case, as this will be my last summer break before my senior year, I hope to fully engage myself in my studies in order to improve my Korean as much as possible. I am certain that this opportunity will help me in my dream of entering graduate school and enable me to continue working towards my ultimate goal of attaining a Ph.D. in Korean studies.
With the help of the Cho family, not only will we be able to improve our studies in Seoul this summer, but the Korean studies program will also have a new fellowship with which they can empower future students. I am incredibly grateful towards the Cho family and the Korean program for putting their faith in the Cho fellows and allowing us to further our dedication for studying Korean. The Cho family has created a generous opportunity for us, and we cannot wait to begin our studies.