Carolyne Im is a rising junior at George Washington University pursuing her B.A. with a major in Political Communication and a minor in Music. She is originally from Mundelein, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. This summer, she is interning remotely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in their Frederick, Maryland office.
What are your main responsibilities at your position? What are some of your big projects?
At APHIS, I am working with the Manuals division to build a new database for the guidelines and procedures for import and export commodities. We’re transferring all the information from their old databases and free-floating PDFs to a more comprehensive, user friendly system, which involves a lot of copy editing, technical writing, and organizational restructuring. This is the big project the entire division is working on this summer, so we’re all working on various components to get the system up and running as soon as possible while also improving the user portal for a better user experience.
How does this internship/scholarship fit with your professional and career goals?
I’m really interested in the combination and utilization of qualitative and quantitative storytelling and communication. Alongside my major in Political Communication, I’m trying to cultivate my professional and academic experience with data analytics and database systems. Working with the USDA this summer is giving me valuable experience in how these systems are used in the workplace and ways in which I can incorporate public service into my career.
What do you hope to achieve this summer as part of CAPAL’s 2020 cohort?
This summer, I hope to connect with the other members of my cohort and engage deeply on discussions of privilege, accountability, and racism targeted at and found within our communities. With anti-AAPI racism becoming more apparent with the COVID-19 pandemic and the focus on the Black Lives Matter movement, I think we are all closely watching how people are treating communities of color and how our own communities are reacting. I’m really excited to have the opportunity to connect with my cohort members and engage in these discussions, as well as bring that knowledge and reflection outside of this space. I’m also really excited to engage in the CAPAL community action project, working closely with other cohort members and engaging in work that will directly serve AAPI communities.
What does public service mean to you?
For me, public service means giving back and bettering the communities I am a part of. I’m a big believer in people doing work that impacts their own communities, rather than outsourcing their work to communities they’re not a part of. I think having a personal stake in the work and knowing intimately the dynamics of your service is really important to bringing purpose and intention to your work. This may sound a bit self-serving, and I’m a big advocate for giving resources to communities you want to support but are not a part of, but I find it difficult to trust that my work is actually helpful when I plant myself in communities that are not my own. Obviously, “community” is extremely broad and covers many spectrums, from family to location to race, ethnicity, and culture, and many more. But at the end of the day, public service for me means having a stake in and caring about how people around me are being treated and acting intentionally to positively impact their experiences.
What is your favorite book?
I had the fortune of being able to read A LOT during quarantine, and my favorite book is probably Know My Name by Chanel Miller. Know My Name is a memoir by the Jane Doe in People of the State of California v. Brock Allen Turner, a rape case in which the perpetrator was a swimmer at Stanford University. Miller remained anonymous until she revealed her identity when she published her memoir and her story is equal parts heartbreaking, beautiful, and resilient. Miller is also half-Chinese, which was largely left out of media coverage, and it’s really beautiful to see the way her Chinese American identity has shaped her life and perspective. I think Know My Name is really important for everyone to read, not only to know Miller’s story, but also to understand the larger issues at play with rape culture, the justice system, and much more.
What movie or show are you watching right now?
I just finished watching Fleabag, which is a two-season dark comedy about a woman in London. Pretentiously, it’s difficult to explain because there’s not necessarily a plot, but the way Phoebe Waller-Bridge portrays the main character is really beautiful and complex and hard to pin down. The show deals with darker themes like grief, loneliness, regret, and self-hatred while constantly weaving in humor in the dialogue, the way the characters interact, and the irony of the show in general. It’s a really quick watch (only six episodes per season) and I would highly recommend it!
If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Predictably, I would go back to South Korea, where my family is from. I’ve only visited once in 2006, and I barely remember it. I would love to go back with my family as an adult and appreciate the culture and landmarks in a new, richer way. Outside of South Korea—probably Switzerland, just for the views.