National exam season has begun and several aspiring future diplomats are currently going through or planning to take the national exams. The following personal insight from one of our UIC students with such experience may help those undergoing the process!
Please introduce yourself (student year, major, where you lived, etc.)
Hello, my name is Soo Bin Lee, and I am a class of 16.5 majoring in International Studies. I lived in Moscow, Russia prior to coming to Korea for university, and am taking a semester off in order to prepare for the national exam for diplomat candidates.
You mentioned that you lived in Russia for most of your formative years. What made you come back to Korea, specifically UIC, for university?
Although I attended an international school which had a comparatively high number of Korean students (relative to other international schools in Moscow), I always dreamt of returning to Korea after I graduated high school because I felt like I would never get used to Russian culture. But now that I look back at my experiences in Russia, I consider myself to have been very privileged, as I was able to learn so much more from school other than merely reading books and rote memorization.
UIC was always my dream school since my freshman year in high school when I went to Athens for a Model UN Conference where I was able to participate as a delegate of South Korea. My experience at the Model UN Conference helped me think about what I truly wanted to become in the future. The experience allowed me to realize I wanted to use my strength in linguistics to investigate ways to contribute to my home country. Furthermore, as I saw many alumni experience difficulties in maintaining their levels of English and Russian proficiency after graduating high school and attending Korean universities, I wanted to study in an environment that allowed me to maintain my level of English and learn about politics and international studies, which eventually brought me to think of applying to UIC.
What is your motivation in wanting to become a diplomat?
My motivation actually goes hand in hand with my motivation to apply for UIC. The Model UN Conference I attended triggered me to become involved in the debate much more actively than in previous years. The experience also got me interested in learning about South Korea’s positions and policies on humanitarian and political issues. But most importantly, when I stood on the platform and suggested my resolutions, I realised this is what I wanted to do for my career: represent and further my country’s interests in the international scene.
The national exams are notorious for being extremely difficult. How have you found the journey so far?
I honestly would NOT recommend this path if you are not confident in being able to overcome hardships and are instead looking for shortcuts in life. Because this exam takes so much time and patience to prepare for. But when I find it difficult to be patient I try to imagine myself as a diplomat, working in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and traveling around the world. I believe that you can endure this long process of learning and solitude if there is a clear goal that you have to strive towards. I don’t believe I would have begun this journey without such determination and drive.
I don’t think this process is difficult because of the ginormous amount of economics, politics, and international laws to memorize, but due to time spent isolated from friends and family.
You have passed the first round of exams and are now preparing for the second round. Which subject in the first round would you say was the most difficult for you and why?
The first round includes Constitutional law and PSAT (Public Service Attitude Test) which tests you in three different areas including Data interpretation, Circumstantial Judgement, and Linguistic Logic. But in order to get to the first round of exams, I needed to achieve three things: First (or second) level in the Korean History exam, a TOEIC score over 870, and a certificate in a secondary foreign language (which was Russian for me).
I found Constitutional law the hardest. I only had three months to cover all the constitutional provisions and articles along with achieving a high score in PSAT. The precedents were fun to read, but things like memorizing the numbers of people in the assembly, term of office, etc. was very, very irritating. I don’t think I even remember them by now.
In such a high stakes and high pressure environment, how do you relieve stress?
I find talking to those I am close to and trying to stay motivated was very important. So I try my best to keep in touch with friends by having dinner or go to coffee shops to talk to them. I also enjoy hanging out with my new friends from cram school as we all live very close to each other. I also try to walk as much as I can, since I spend most of the day sitting on a chair and studying. There is also a small stream and trail near my house, so I often take walks whenever I’m overly stressed. These days I walk the trails with my friend from cram school.
Do you have any final comments to share with us?
Don’t lose hope during the process. There may be many ups and downs but try to keep yourself motivated by reminding yourself of what you are ultimately trying to achieve!