Yerin CHU – Bai Xian Scholar, 2018 cohort; master’s degree in philosophy and religion, Yenching Academy of Peking University.  Born in Korea and raised in numerous Asian cities, Yerin has had many opportunities to explore her interest in East Asian development.  She credits the AFLSP for showing her the value of being a part of an open, cross-cultural community.

Reflecting back on her first year as a Bai Xian Scholar, Yerin recalls an experience of contrasts.

Just prior to the summer of 2019, she visited cities near the China-Russia and North Korea-Russia borders, where she learned about agriculture, construction, and maritime and rail trade in the area while examining the potential of the region as a large-scale agricultural and logistics hub.  One of her deepest impressions from the trip was being in Hunchun, a Chinese city that borders North Korea and Russia, and witnessing the blend of Chinese, Russian, and North Korean people and cultures.  Her fascination, however, was often mixed with a gnawing sense of unease and nervousness.  “Because I was interviewing government officials and trying to visit a clothing factory that hires North Korean female laborers, I was always worried that a police officer would show up and question what I was doing there,” she says.  “I had never felt this before, and realized that being brought up and educated in cities like Seoul, Manila, Hong Kong, and Boston had given me a one-sided view of the world, and that I had taken my freedoms for granted.”

The trip, though enlightening, left her physically and mentally drained.  So when she flew to Osaka to attend the 2019 Summer Program shortly after, where she was met by smiling, high-spirited peers excited for the adventure ahead, she breathed a sigh of relief.  “I found friends and I found my voice again, which I realized had been stifled,” she reflects.  “I felt safe to release my curiosity and to ask questions.  This newfound awareness and appreciation of what I have was one of my biggest takeaways from the AFLSP.”

After the Summer Program, Yerin enjoyed the chance to moderate a career panel during an Alumni Association event in Beijing, adding, “It was a privilege to engage with the BX community in that capacity and to hear from experts in different fields of study and professions.”  On her AFLSP journey so far, Yerin says, “I really treasure all my experiences – from intellectual expansion to personal development, I have definitely grown in more ways than one.”