What was the moment in your life when you realized you wanted to explore public service?
There was never a poignant moment in my life when I realized I wanted to explore public service. I have grown up in a household where I have always been taught to serve my community by parents who exemplified the meaning of public service. My father worked in a newspaper company in which he had always participated in its charity outreach events in the Koreatown community. My mother volunteered her time as a Korean-language teacher to young elementary school students and her weekends as a kitchen helper at our local church. Through them, public service has always been a part of my life and something I will continue pursuing in my career.
What are your main responsibilities at your position? What are you looking forward to the most in your position?
As a student intern at the Maryland/Delaware USDA-Rural Development office, my main responsibilities change every week. At the beginning of each week, I rotate to a different department and perform new tasks with new coworkers. However, for the most part I have been tasked with reviewing audit reports, loans, and grants of rural property owners, businesses, and organizations. I am most looking forward to gaining new skillsets in finance as I believe that a background in finance would be beneficial in public service work.
Did you find anything surprising about your internship or doing public service work?
Prior to my internship, I expected hardened and stringent federal workers but instead I was welcomed by the nicest folks on the planet who constantly invite me to their family and small town events every week and offer help any chance they get. In addition, I was surprised to see how invested they were in their work and the people they serve. There is direct face-to-face interaction with the community they serve and they are always engaged in how they can continue their support for these families and communities. One time, I sat down with a loan specialist who was telling me how difficult it was for her during the 2008 economic crisis when she would see that there were no funds to support many properties and their tenants. The people in the office really care about their work and the people they serve by extending their work onto the field through visiting the sites, knowing their clients, and engaging in community events.
How does this internship help you with your professional goals? What do you want to get out of it?
This internship allows me to be on the field as well as work through the bureaucratic processes of a federal agency. This experience helps me shape what environment I envision myself working in. I am still exploring and figuring out my professional goals so my internship with USDA-RD offers an invaluable experience for me to encounter different working environments as well as coworkers from all walks of life with abundant advice to give.
What motivates you?
My biggest motivation in doing anything is knowing that I am on a journey to an unknown destination; and on this journey, I tell myself to try my best with every opportunity as I will never know where my best efforts will lead me but knowing I have given my all leaves me no regrets and only lessons learned. In other words, although I have goals and dreams I would like to achieve, my biggest motivation does not come from an idea of my future. It comes from the sense of fulfillment of doing my best every day and the excitement of new possibilities and unexpected opportunities.
What is something that most people would not know about you?
I enjoy rock music! One of my all-time favorite songs is “I hate everything about you” by Three Days Grace. With that being said, I am a loving person.
When you get off work, what do you do? What are your weekend activities?
When I get off work, I try to catch up on shows that I neglected during the school year, practice my Chinese on Coursera, and finish my novel. And when I’m up for it, I run laps around the football field. On the weekends, I go on mini-adventures on exploring the hidden charms of Dover! One such hidden charm is a movie theater that sells $5.75 bargain matinee tickets during 4-6pm. I am also planning on solo weekend trips to Philadelphia and New York for more exploring and cheesy self-discovery.
Sooji Yang is a rising junior studying Society and Environment with a minor in Public Policy at UC Berkeley. She is interested in global environmental politics and how diplomacy is demonstrated through environmental stewardship. Apart from her studies, she strives to be active on campus through her participation in student organizations such as teaching social justice issues in a student-run class, planning philanthropy events for Delta Phi Epsilon (UC Berkeley’s premier co-ed foreign service professional fraternity), and performing traditional Korean music to celebrate her culture on campus. Beyond her local community, she has served as a U.S. youth delegate in a climate conference in Qatar, co-directed a charity concert in Chinese in Chengdu, and led discussions on youth empowerment and leadership development program for students in Japan. She hopes through her involvement in the local and global community she can serve AAPI interests and expand the AAPI role in international affairs, particularly environmental issues.
Meet all of our CAPAL Scholars & Interns here.
Posted by Felicia Wong
Felicia Wong is currently a senior at the College of William and Mary, double majoring in Neuroscience and Asian American Studies, and minoring in Biochemistry. She is president of the Filipino American Student Association, and current non-academic projects include creating films calling for diversity curriculums/requirements and establishing an official APIA Studies program. Felicia was also elected president of Global Medical Brigades to lead a sustainable healthcare program in rural communities in Nicaragua. She hopes to connect her interests in healthcare with the community she has found in her cultural background. Having lived in Germany for most of her childhood, Felicia makes yearly trips back to visit her family, providing opportunities for her to indulge in her greatest joys: touring castles, eating at cafés, taking fashion cues from strangers, cooking with her family. Non-country specific pleasures include: biking, watching live music performances, screaming because Game of Thrones.