Hometown: Pohang, South Korea
Why did you apply for the Johnson Opportunity Grant? I wanted the opportunity to challenge myself beyond my comfort zone. Since I decided on my major, I have been seeking a chance to apply my learning to reality. Also, I wanted to take on the challenge in a place I have never been. The thrill the new and unknown have always excited and motivated me to do better in my tasks. In addition, I wanted to see if there were any divides in the academic understanding and teachings of psychology in different countries. I applied for the Johnson Opportunity Grant because I believed that through this grant, I'd be a step closer to accomplishing my vision, and I'd gain deeper understanding of the application of my major in a professional setting, worldwide.
How does your work under the grant apply to your studies at W&L? I was able to get a first-hand look into the professional field of psychology. I not only worked as a research assistant to a psychology professor, but I was also an observer. I observed and learned about the daily lives of a person who is applying psychology in his career. Although I was a helper, I felt that my work also put me in a situation in which I got to experience the daily life of a psychologist. For example, I aided my supervisor in various tasks, such as International Journal of Wellbeing, GROW, International Wellbeing Studies and more. I realized that being a psychologist meant more than being an academic or a researcher--the work was balancing the whole field.
What was the most unexpected aspect of your grant experience? The most unexpected aspect of my grant experience was the amount of work I was entrusted with. I was asked to write an introduction of the International Welling Studies publication. This was a great honor for me. Moreover, my name was included in the title page of the publication. As an undergraduate student of psychology, I could not help being overjoyed by such opportunity to be cited with other prestigious names in the psychological field.Favorite Class: Brain and Behavior with Professor Lorig. I did not pass this class with flying colors, and I also had to work three times harder for this class. However, I learned a LOT.
Advice for prospective or first-year students? Never be afraid of being different. Never be afraid to make a difference and or to make the first change. Sometimes, we are stuck within our comfort zone and never distinguish ourselves from the others. I saw a lot of this problem, especially at W&L. For the first-year students, I wish that they would try new things and not be afraid of sharing their interests, because nothing is ever wrong about being different! Some people don't seem to accept that fact and it causes a lot of stress and hatred for other people. If we could all accept each other as individuals and also accept others for being different, I think we can aim to create a more diversified, unique and active school population.
I wake up by the sound of the alarm ringing above my head. In the windowless room, I struggle out of bed in the dark. The clock reads 6:45 a.m. I quickly wash up and prepare for the day. After making a mental list of the day's tasks, I grab a toast and New Zealand Golden Kiwis for breakfast. At 8 a.m., my supervisor, Dr. Jarden (I call him Aaron), picks me up in front of the Thistle Hall. The drive begins with the long coastline connecting the Queen Wharf of Wellington and Petune Wharf of Lower Hutt. Despite the winter season, Wellington is maintaining its 9 degrees Celsius. The bay is calm and its surface glitters as the bright morning sunlight is reflected. I can see the Matiu Somes Island, a conservation territory, located in the middle of the bay. Every part of New Zealand is breath-taking. On our way to the Open Polytech University, Aaron and I engage in deep conversation that switches from All Blacks rugby to the problems of current psychology.
Once we have arrived at the university, I proceed to my temporary office to get on with my tasks for the day. Today, I am working on the International Wellbeing Study, a large-scaled global assessment that measures the wellbeing of the general population around the world through online surveys. I am assigned to write out the descriptions of the 18 measures used for the international wellbeing assessment. This will be posted on the method section of the publication. Also, I am writing the first draft of the introduction to the study. I have read many publications on wellbeing, from dissertations of Ph.D. graduates to published journal articles and general positive psychology textbooks. It's taken weeks of reading and researching before I could start writing a draft. Although Aaron assures me that the introduction is the hardest section to write and there is nothing to be embarrassed about, I can't help feeling nervous and intimidated as I type each word. Moreover, I can't control my excitement over the fact that I am drafting an introduction for a research done by renowned and prestigious psychologists, and that the draft will be used for the final publication, which will be published worldwide.
At noon, I go upstairs to Dr. Jarden's room for a check-up on the tasks I have accomplished so far. I am lucky today. Aaron is not as busy as usual. Usually, he is caught up with psychology courses, journals, publications, research and other psychology-related work. I am amazed at how much work he can juggle with calm and ease. He has definitely changed my view of a psychologist, from a one-dimensional to multi-dimensional perspective.
I quickly hand him the measures section and introduction. As my heart pounds hard, I wait for Aaron to finish reading. The ten minutes of silence seemed like eternity to me. Then he says, "This is a good first draft for an introduction." I am overjoyed. What a compliment to get from the president of positive psychology association in New Zealand! I could be any more excited. Then, he adds, "Also, add your name in the title page." As an undergraduate psychology major, this is an honorable moment for me, a remarkable achievement.
After the check-up, I shift my work to GROW, a newly established globalized online assessment designed for academic and organizational purposes. I work on creating a list of psychology department heads in English speaking countries, which include United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States. Another list I have to make is for the mock case study, which will be conducted to measure the effectiveness of the GROW program. The mock case study I have written, with the help of Dr. Jarden, is to collect data of wellbeing among spinal injury patients in English speaking nations. Thus, I am assigned to gather the contact information of the heads of the spinal units.
At 4 p.m., we return back to Wellington. As I walk down the busy streets of Cuba, on my way back to the apartment, I think about the achievements I have already attained through this research program. Not only am I learning about the professionalism of my major, I get to personally engage in the work and apply my learning. Plus, I am in New Zealand! I am not only making giant leaps towards my career but also meeting new people and merging into a new culture and life. As I turn the corner of the Taranaki street, I feel a twinkling itch of excitement to learn more and to see more. I am currently previewing my future self.