Global Learners: Yehee Lee

“I’ve become more cautious about viewing the experiences of others. I now prioritize, above everything, seeing the world through their perspective.”

Home: Republic of Korea, Gyeonggi-do, Suwon-si

Major: Undecided

Global education experience at Mount Holyoke College: International student, classroom engagement with global issues, interaction with international students outside the classroom

Who is your global hero? Who do you admire for courage, activism, achievements and passion? Haekyung Jeon, a social worker in Kolkata, India. I went on a voluntary service to an orphanage in Kolkata earlier this year and she was my host. On the first day in which my team went, she told us about the attitude we should have during our volunteer work. She informed us not to feel pity for the children. Don’t feel like we are “doing something good for the poor children,” because the better environment in which we grew up was a privilege. This inspired me through changing my thought in voluntary work and activism. She helped me learn that paying attention to the marginalized groups in society is not a good deed, but a natural responsibility for people who have lived with privilege.

What instance or insight has stayed with you from your global learning experiences? In my home country, most colleges do not have gender studies classes and people are not aware of issues such as ableism or homophobia. However, in Mount Holyoke College, I am exposed to these issues very much and they’ve opened up my mind. In particular, in one of my gender studies classes, I read an essay about disability from the perspective of a disabled person. The essay was about how society expects the disabled to work to “get better” and fit the social norm when most of them would not be able to. Also, the writer, Eli Clare, wrote about how the superficial pity of people can hurt the disabled. I was surprised at how senseless I have been with my words and actions towards the disabled in the past, and how acting upon what I speculate to be true of others can be offensive. This reading influenced my worldview. I’ve become more cautious about deciding how to view the experiences of others. I now prioritize, above everything, trying to understand others and their values by seeing the world through their perspective.

What advice do you have for students studying and interning in a culture other than their own? I want to encourage people to try understanding and studying the new culture before judging them. Also, do not be afraid to ask for help when you are struggling, or ask for explanations of certain cultures. Communicating with people will lead to a deeper understanding of the region, compared to mere observation of the place.