Master's student YouJin Chong thinks that, "Education is the key".
Master's student YouJin Chong thinks that, "Education is the key".

When Master’s student, YouJin Chong, took her first teaching position some years ago in Beijing, China she didn’t realize the impact it would have on her. “I was lucky to find out what I wanted to do with my life,” she says. She has come to Stockholm University to further her teaching career and is taking a Master’s in International and Comparative Education.  

She expresses positive feelings about continuing her education here. “My professors ask us to write about what we are interested in plus explain the theory behind it. We have only one class a week so there is time to really investigate and examine new methods and ideas.” YouJin gives an example of a subtle, but important change in her own theories about teaching. “I thought I had to push students to be better,” YouJin says. “One of my professors suggested another point of view, that I should assist my students to study, not push them.”

Pleased with the international mix of her classmates, YouJin mentions that they come from 18 different countries. “They are all teachers or have been involved with the educational process in some way,” she says. Recently the students in her program got together for a dinner on International Food Day. “We had Korean egg rolls, Zupfe from Switzerland, Iranian Kuku with potato, maybe 13 or 14 different dishes,” says YouJin. It is apparent that YouJin appreciates not only the exotic food but also the camaraderie she shares with her fellow students. “Here we all come from a different country, there are no minors, no majors. We can help each other, share our teaching experiences from other countries, open each other’s eyes,” she says.  

Every summer YouJin returns to South Korea where she teaches groups of North Korean refugees. “They are hungry for food, but also for knowledge,” she explains. “Education is a tool to accomplish dreams. I share the same dream as my North Korean students, to help our country.” 

Part 2: Spring term 2009

Photo: Sarah Hollister
Photo: Sarah Hollister

Korean Master’s student YouJin Chong has recently returned to Stockholm University following a three month internship in one of the Rohingya refugee camps located in Bangladesh. “I studied ways to manage the educational system for the refugee children living there,” says YouJin.

In our very first conversation with Korean Master’s student YouJin Chong during Spring term 2009, she told us that it was important that her professors combine teaching with working in the “real” world. YouJin herself has just returned to the University after three months of public service work in one of the two Rohingya refugee camps located in Bangladesh.

“I was studying ways to manage the educational system for the refugee children there,” she says. The internship was arranged through the UNHCR* and UNICEF,” YouJin adds. “We tried to educate the parents and teachers on how to participate in refugee education”. 

YouJin returned to Sweden via Beijing, where she spent Christmas with her sister. “I have many friends there, some of them my old students, from the time that I was living and teaching in Beijing,” YouJin explains. 

“But I’m glad to be back in Sweden,” YouJin says. “I feel motivated to study more and deeply about the refugee situation,” she adds.

YouJin is underpinning what she learned during her internship with a course this term called Education Reform. Her thesis will also reflect the time she spent in the Refugee camp in Bangladesh. 

“I want to apply for a second internship,” says YouJin. “Maybe next year I will go to Haiti. Of course, eventually I’ll go back to Korea.  With my new knowledge and practical experience, I hope to do something to help there,” YouJin explains.

YouJin is particularly interested in the Swedish method of fund raising. “Sweden is amongst the top five nations when it comes to the amount of money they donate to UNHCR,” says YouJin. “I want to understand how they make people aware. I can take this knowledge back to Korea with me. The schools there need more money” she explains.

“Some of the students in the Refugee camp have been there for seventeen years. Still they study so hard, they look at the map to see where in the world they want to live. Education is hope,” say YouJin. 

*United Nations High Commission on Refugees.

Text and interview: Sarah Hollister