Two Korean Majors from Fairfax Campus Hone Korean Skills at Mason Korea

Two Korean Majors from Fairfax Campus Hone Korean Skills at Mason Korea
Summer Brown and Kelly Byrd (left to right) are both Korean majors at Mason’s Fairfax campus studying abroad at Mason Korea

For students at George Mason University seeking to learn Korean, Mason’s branch campus in Incheon, Korea presents a fantastic learning opportunity. Kelly Byrd and Summer Olympic Brown are doing just that. Both Korean majors at Mason’s Fairfax campus and studying abroad at Mason Korea, they are also part of the inaugural batch of interns at Mason Korea’s Industrial-University Collaboration Foundation (IUCF). Mason Korea’s internship program provides Fairfax students the opportunity to hone their skills in Korean—in the workplace as well as in daily life.

Neither Byrd nor Brown are strangers to Korea. Byrd, a junior majoring in Foreign Languages with a concentration in Korean Studies, first came to Korea in 2019 for a month-long study abroad program at Sejong University sponsored by Mason. Brown, a junior double majoring in Conflict Analysis and Resolution with a concentration in Global Engagement and in Foreign Languages with a concentration in Korean, is back in Korea for the third time.

Both students were eager to return to Korea and determined to improve their Korean skills. “I was ecstatic when my professor informed me about a new internship opportunity at Mason Korea for the Spring 2021 semester,” said Byrd. “It was just the kind of opportunity I was looking for, so I immediately applied. Thankfully, I got the internship and I was able to come to Mason Korea for the first time and explore Korea again, as well as meet the students and faculty at Mason Korea.”

“Korea is my favorite country from all the countries I’ve been to,” says Brown. “I love the country so much and I absolutely wanted to stay much longer this time to learn more about Korea.”

As interns at IUCF, Byrd and Brown use their Korean language skills each day on the job. Under the guidance of Professor Hyang Lee, Director of IUCF and also a professor of Modern and Classical Languages, the two interns help connect faculty with research opportunities and conferences that relate to faculty research interests. They also translate websites and emails from Korean to English. While the work can be challenging, both students’ Korean skills have clearly improved.

Brown, an aspiring diplomat, also has a second internship—a virtual internship with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Overseas Building Operations (OBO) where she has worked on projects such as summarizing over 5,000 diplomatic residence quality of life survey responses and creating a training guide for a software application used at OBO.

“As someone who wants to become a diplomat, the concept of understanding nation building and national progression is very important for me to understand because they are topics I will have to face in the future,” says Brown. “Korea has provided me an excellent opportunity to not only understand this concept, but also view the world in a totally different perspective than I would ever have by staying in the U.S.”

Byrd also describes her experience at Mason Korea as fulfilling. “It is fun to explore a new campus and meet new people while also gaining internship experience,” she says. “My biggest goal that I want to achieve during my time in Korea is to improve my Korean speaking skills, but I also hope to continue to meet new people as well as continue to make a lot of great memories.”

Watch Byrd’s interview in Korean here.