Julie Choi, a senior double majoring in government and politics and in history, has been awarded a Charles B. Rangel Summer Enrichment Program scholarship. Julie is one of 15 students selected from across the country.
The program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and administered by Howard University, provides global-minded undergraduates with a deeper appreciation of current issues in international affairs, a greater understanding of career opportunities in the field, and the enhanced knowledge and skills to pursue such careers. Rangel Scholars participate in a six-week program at Howard University, where they take courses related to U.S. foreign policy, meet professionals who work on global issues, and visit institutions involved in international affairs. The program covers all costs and provides a stipend of $3,200.
Born in South Korea, Julie emigrated with her family to the United States when she was 3 years old. Growing up in a large Korean immigrant community in Ellicott City, Maryland, and attending school with mostly white non-immigrants, Julie was surrounded by the contrasts of two different cultures. In middle and high school, she sought to make sense of these differences, trying to navigate, she says, “being a Korean immigrant, but also being a Korean immigrant that lived in the United States.”
Once at the University of Maryland, Julie found that studying international relations helped her make sense of these differences. After a year of government and politics coursework, she came to realize the importance of understanding history, and applying that knowledge to current events. For her, this is especially true for East Asia, her intended region of expertise. “History,” Julie explains, “is important for understanding the different relationships between countries . . . and it offers the ability to tell a narrative. History and international relations go hand in hand, especially if you study diplomatic history.” During a course on the history of U.S. foreign relations taught by Dr. Colleen Woods, Julie learned about policies during different eras and in different regions, giving her insight into policies being considered and enacted today.
Now in her final semester at UMD, Julie is finishing her honors history thesis, which examines the Korean independence movement in relation to the United States. She is focusing on the role played by the Korean diaspora in the U.S. in the movement for Korean independence during the early 20th century. “At its a core I consider it a paper on U.S.-Korean diplomatic relations through an interesting group of people who were Korean but living in the United States.”
In 2018, Julie’s interest in policy and service led her to pursue a legislative internship for state Senator Susan Lee in the Maryland General Assembly. She reported on hearings and conducted policy research for legislation in the Senate and the House of Delegates. Since 2018, Julie has worked for the Upward Bound Program at UMD, tutoring high school students in history and psychology, and preparing them for college.
Following graduation, Julie plans to work for a year doing foreign policy research. She then intends to pursue a master’s degree related to foreign policy or foreign affairs to prepare for a career as a political officer in the Foreign Service. Of her goals, Julie states, “I pursued international relations because as a Korean I wanted to help create and enact an international framework where North and South Korea could peacefully coexist and eventually reunify. While I still have hopes to create this framework, I am now determined to diversify the field. I want to add my perspective as a Korean immigrant to foreign policy making and help mentor other people like me.”
Story and photo courtesy of UMD's National Scholarships Office.