An Interview with Soojin: From Seoul to Paris to Work in International Relations

 Working for an International Organisation

Soojin is from South Korea and speaks multiple languages including English, Mandarin, Russian and her native Korean.

We have known each other for such a long time now!
You have been a great friend to me over the years. We met at Kyung-Hee University when I was doing a Korean language scholarship.                                                                                    
Photo credit: Libby Crozier
The idea was that people would leave notes on the wall of this cafe to remember good times

What were you studying at Kyung-Hee University? 


I was a student at Kyung-hee University and majored in tourism management. When I was a student, I participated in a variety of volunteer activities. I enjoy helping others and making the world a better place. I was a mentor and teacher for students who couldn’t afford private education and also helped foreigners learn Korean because it made me happy to help others.

Do you remember how we met? What is a “dwoomi” exactly?


Timmy introduced me to you. Timmy was a foreign student at Kyung-Hee university studying Korean. I was his dowoomi, which means “helper” in Korean so I helped Timmy to learn Korean. We hung out together and tried to communicate in Korean to help improve his Korea language skills.


Photo credit: Libby Crozier

Tim Gauntlett (will have a separate article on him) and Soojin

Photo credit: Libby Crozier

We have not gone back together to see the note we left on the wall in 2013- all us three: Tim, Soojin and myself

You even won the "best dwoomi" title at Kyung-Hee where you went up on stage to collect an award! I don't think you saw that one coming!

Photo credit: Libby Crozier 

I enjoyed this!

What did you end up doing in the following years? Did you study more?


I think I first met you and Timmy in 2013. After Timmy and you both left Korea, I continued my studies on tourism management and worked at the Korea Publication Industry Promotion Agency. While I was working for the agency, I saw an advertisement for people who want to work abroad. I thought it might be my last chance to live abroad, and the job seemed like it would allow me to put my skills and interest in tourism to good use. I applied for the job and I was given the opportunity to work in Uzbekistan for a year.

Wow, Uzbekistan! What an experience. What made you study international relations?


I decided to pursue my master’s degree when I was living in Uzbekistan. My job in Uzbekistan entailed assisting with development projects in Uzbekistan. Many projects were implemented but I could see politics and international relation are critical to the country’s development. As I had only studied management, I had little background in politics or international relations. As a result, I decided to pursue a master’s degree in global governance at the Graduate Institute of Peace studies.


I left Korea but I remember that I did visit home once or twice and saw you.

Photo credit: Libby Crozier 

Were there any fun parts of your Master’s degree?


It was a hard time for me to pursue my master’s degree. I read a lot of articles, reports, books, and thesis and discussed a wide range of topics with my fellows. I learned a great deal about peace and international relations. The best part of my master’s program was meeting new people who share my desire to make the world a better place for people. I still in contact with them and I am glad that my friends from the institute are still working to make the world a better place.

Did you do many overseas experiences?


Yes, I spent six months in China as an exchange student. I also spent one month each in Australia, New Zealand and the USA. As previous stated, I lived in Uzbekistan for a year. Now I am living in France.

Did you try to learn Russian?


I lived in Uzbekistan for one year, from May 2014 to May 2015. During this period, I studied Russian, which is one of the local languages, to facilitate communication with the local people. This effort allowed me to conduct field research directly with the Uzbek and Russian people in my community.


Are foreign languages important in international relations careers?


It is not required, but it is recommended. People can communicate without speaking foreign languages because interpreters are available. However, if you want to participate in the community or learn about the culture without the use of interpretation or translation. It is advantageous to be fluent in a foreign language.

What was the best thing about this period of your life?


If you’re wondering about my time in Uzbekistan, the best thing I accomplished was learning the language and culture of Uzbekistan, as well as making good friends there. One of friends has become my best friend. She moved to Seoul after I returned, and we meet up whenever we are free. We are “dowoomi” to one another.

What was your thesis?


The title of my thesis was on “Disaster Risk Management for Sustainable Development: The case of coastal settlements in India and Thailand”. I did my internship on disaster risk management, so I wanted to write about it while working for it. I also wanted to utilize my knowledge on tourism, so I chose two popular tourist destinations.


I remember that you went to Paris on holiday once and you met up with one of my friends. Did you think then about moving to France?


Not at all, my first impression of France was negative. People were rude and unwelcoming. Because I didn’t speak French, it was hard to communicate with people while travelling. When I left France, I thought it would be my last visit.


Photo credit: Soojin Jeong
A Picnic in the Bois de Boulogne 

How did you end up in France?

I travelled to France in 2013, thinking it would be my last trip to Paris. However, I received an offer for an internship in Paris, and my professor advised me that Paris is a great international city for networking, so I chose to do the internship. Actually, I had two other offers from Bangkok and Chicago, but I chose to go to Paris due to the advice of my professor.

How long was your internship?

The internship was six months long. I learned a lot during my internship.

Photo credit: Soojin Jeong

You have such an interesting job working in international relations but I understand that due to the nature of your work that you are limited in what particulars we can discuss.


What do you like best about working where you work?


The best part about working in my organization is that we have a good welfare system, more vacation time than Korean companies, international colleagues, and a good manager and teammates. Luckily, I work in a good team so my manager is supportive and my co-workers are friendly.

How long have you been there now?


I started my internship in April 2017 and have continued my career until now.

What do you like most about Paris?


I like architecture of Paris. I enjoy walking in the centre of Paris like Marais, Saint-Germain. The best seasons are spring and summer. Picnics in parks or near the Seine are enjoyable.

Photo credit: Soojin Jeong at "Nouilles Ceintures"    Photo credit: Libby Crozier at "MyNoodles"

I'm seeing some similarities here!

Photo credit: Soojin Jeong
I swear that we are in France!

What do you do in your spare time?


I go to the gym or do yoga and Zumba. I enjoy walking around or in parks. My new hobby is cross-fit.

Which part of Paris do you live? Is it interesting?


I live in the south of Paris. My neighbourhood is more residential area, so the rental prices are lower than the city centre. I used to live in the heart of Paris during my internship and it was more interesting area to live in. There were many things to see, and it was easy to get around without taking public transportation. However, because my flat was too small, I decided to move down to a larger but less fun area.

Do you travel often? Where is your favourite place in France so far?

Because I like travelling, I think I travel more than four times per year. My favourite region in France is South of France. I went hiking in Calanque de Sormiou. I recommend it  to the people who enjoy hiking and gazing out at the sea.

I LOVE the south of France. As you know, I lived on the riviera in Antibes for awhile. 

Do you often travel from Paris? Where?


Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, I travelled frequently within Europe. I travelled to the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and other countries. I had a good friend in Toulouse, so I went to see her. I used to enjoy traveling alone, but now I prefer to travel with or see my friends.

Do you miss Korea?


Yes, I do, especially my family, friends, and foods!


Photo credit: Alannah Lingo

Korean Kimchi Festival in the 15th Arrondissement. My Canadian friend Alannah tried kimchi for the first time!

What is the most difficult thing about moving to a foreign country for work?


The most difficult aspect of moving to a foreign country is not being able to see my family and close friends on a regular basis. I have tried to make new friends but it is not the same as hanging out with old ones. However, I am enjoying my life by doing fun things to help me get through the difficult times.

Was it difficult to set yourself up or did work help you?


The only thing I did on my own was looking for an apartment. My employer provided me with a visa/residence card as well as health insurance. As a result, it was difficult to find a place to live, but it may have been easier than for other people who needed to do other administrative tasks.

Do you find French administration to be difficult? And why? How does it compare to Korean administration?


I haven't had much experience with French administration. I did, however, do some. I believe it is difficult because of language barriers and cultural differences. First and foremost, my French is not fluent enough, which is the primary reason I find it difficult. My other friends who speak fluent French, on the other hand, told me that the French system is slower than the Korean system. For example, it takes a few days to complete a task that would only take a few hours in Korea.

Is Korea or France more efficient?


In my opinion, Korea is more efficient. It is faster and more responsible than France.


Where do you see yourself in the future?


I want to continue my career in international development or relations. I would like to be a project manager who plans, implements, and monitors development projects. After retirement, I would like to establish a NGO or work as a volunteer to share my skills, knowledge and experiences. 

Would you recommend someone interested or studying international relations to come to Paris to work?


I recommend it. Paris is a good location for studying international relations. There are several international organizations and many international students. French is one of the official languages of many international organizations. As a result, studying in France will be helpful to learn French.

What are your colleagues like?


My colleagues are from different countries including New Zealand, France, Italy, United Kingdom, Poland, Bulgaria, Finland, Estonia, Japan and others. As previous mentioned, my colleagues are friendly and supportive so I am pleased to work with my colleagues.

Do you get to travel for work?


Yes, I do. I travelled to Belgium, Georgia and Kazakhstan.


Are there many opportunities available?


Yes, there are many opportunities available in my organization. I saw more than ten advertisements every week. There are different functions in my organisation and they also are looking for interns.



Thank you so much for your time!


Please note that this interview was conducted completely in both my and Soojin's own words.