3 successful tips for being an intern in South Korea
Kyra’s reflection on her experiences in Seoul. Personal statements she’s made about the people and places that have impacted her along the way
Feature Story Continued
Kyra’s tips on business culture in Seoul, inspirations, and her future plans
Special thanks to the editors, writers, and DIOKOS team for making this interview possible. We grow together.
Hi! I’m Kyra Aligaen, and I’m a rising junior at USC! I’m currently pursuing my BS-OTD within the USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy and a minor in International Health, Development, and Social Justice.
With my studies, I hope to serve those across the globe barred access to fundamental rehabilitation due to poor healthcare infrastructure.
I am deeply passionate about empowering diverse communities through their individualized stories and have an interest in using occupational therapy, public health, and global affairs to make this a reality.
“My favorite memories of living in Seoul were visiting Hwaseong Fortress, and watching the sunset with my partner”
Interview with Kyra Aligaen:
We are grateful enough to have the opportunity to catch up with Kyra a few days after her flight from Incheon Airport, back home to LAX. Ever the dedicated traveler, Kyra is mere days away from embarking on another adventure to Canada to visit family. Excited, exhausted, and starry-eyed, she regales us with stories of Seoul, the memories she shared, and the people she met.
– What interested you in interning in Seoul?
I had the opportunity to intern in Tokyo, or Seoul – which was a hard decision. I brought the conundrum to my friends, and for those who knew me, they recommended Seoul. Being a fan of BTS, K-dramas, and Korean work culture, I found it an obvious choice as well. I wanted to know for myself if the work culture in Seoul was different than its media portrayal.
– What was your favorite experience in Seoul?
There was one day when our boss allowed us to work from home. On this day, he scheduled my coworker and me to meet with occupational therapists in Suwon. However, my coworker slept in and I was forced to commute two hours on bus and train to reach them. However, in the end, I gained valuable work and personal experience and felt more confident in my independence.
– If you had any advice for someone working in Seoul, what would it be?
Be mindful of the fact that different businesses will have different workload expectations. Bosses will have expectations of your performance and working hours, and you’ll want to make sure to be respectful of their needs, as well as your coworkers.
– When do you feel the most inspired?
I’m inspired when people show kindness without any reward. I think that it shows a lot about their character. I also feel inspired when people make sacrifices for me, namely my parents, who inspire me every day. I’m an only child, and when I was younger I took their work for granted. Only recently, when I’ve become a bit older – I feel such a profound veneration for them, as I understand how hard they worked to provide a good life for me. I feel grateful for them, and I don’t want their sacrifices to be in vain. I can also say with confidence that our boss Danny Han makes me feel inspired. Coming to Seoul with little marketing experience, I was scared that I wouldn’t be of use to him. But, he was kind and took a chance on me, always making sure I was learning something relevant. Even in the very short time we spent together, I felt very supported and protected by him.
– What will you remember most from your time in Seoul?
I admire the culture of respect in Seoul. I remember when Danny took us to a middle school he was lecturing at. There was this girl who sat in the back, and we kept making eye contact. I remember smiling at her and she bowed at me. I think the culture of deeply respecting the experienced and elderly is beautiful and gracious and it’s this kind of respect that I’d like to take back to the States with me.
– Will you come back to Korea in the near future?
I think it would be a hard transition to go back to Seoul right away, but I can see myself doing some future fieldwork in South Korea. The occupational therapists I met here were actually alumni of my school, so I know it’s possible. I’m not sure if I could live there long-term, but I would jump on the opportunity to study or intern there again in a heartbeat.