Follow your passion, be open-minded, and get experience in diverse settings
Interview with Yejin Han, Professor of York St John University in the U.K.
Dr. Yeji Han works at York St. John University in the UK as Lecturer in Korean and Linguisics (equivalent to Assistant Professor). She teaches Korean language and general linguistics there. – Ed
Q: Thank you for accepting the interview. Please tell me a little bit about yourself.
A: I am teaching Korean language and general linguistics at York St John University in the UK. I joined the university last year. My academic and career background is quite diverse and interdisciplinary. Before I came to the UK, I taught a wide range of courses including applied linguistics, research methods, TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), Korean linguistics, Korean language and English writing. Previously, I worked at four different universities in the U.S., Canada and Vietnam.
Q: Can you please tell us about your university and programs?
A: York St John University is located in the heart of the city of York. York is a small historic city popular with tourists and students. York St John University is famous for East Asian Languages and linguistics. Students on different degree programs study together. We are a community of professors and students working on English language, linguistics, intercultural communication, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Thai, British Sign Language and Deaf Studies. Korean is probably our most popular language.
A great program for international students is our 3-year undergraduate program in English Language, Linguistics and TESOL. At the end of the program students have the skills and knowledge they need to teach English. Students can also complete the internationally renowned CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching) course for free. This professional teaching qualification allows successful candidates to teach English in the UK or overseas. The combination of the degree and the CELTA is attractive to employers and our students have been head-hunted by English language schools.
We also have an excellent long-established MA in TESOL program which considers theoretical and practical approaches to teaching English at a global level. We also offer MAs in TESOL with Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Thai which prepare students to teach English in the country of their chosen language. So, students will be given intensive classes in the relevant East Asian language to equip them with the necessary language skills to live overseas.
York St John University values both teaching and research and prides itself in research-informed teaching. The professors research in the broad area of applied linguistics. They offer current undergraduate and postgraduate students opportunities to work, in collaboration with staff, on publications and public-engagement events organized to disseminate research among the wider public.
The University goes to great lengths to welcome and familiarize new international students to academic life in the UK, from the very first moment they land in the country. So, we run events to welcome overseas students, and offer personalized support to develop the study skills required to successfully complete programs with us. I feel very lucky to work at this student-focused university with the great feeling of community.
Q: I wonder how you became a professor at a university in the UK.
A: I had almost never thought about becoming a professor in the UK until I saw the job posting of my current position. My current department was looking for someone who can teach both Korean language and English linguistics. They were starting a new degree program – BA in Korean/TESOL/Linguistics when I joined. I thought my academic background would perfectly fit the position. At the time I applied for it, I was teaching at a university in the U.S. It was a big move, but I was very excited to start up the program and support students who decided to major in my language.
Q: Please tell me in detail about how you prepared to be a professor and how you started to teach students there in the U.K.
A: When I was a student in Korea, I wanted to go abroad for graduate studies and devoted myself to making it happen. It is obvious that I needed to improve my English skills to study and teach in English-speaking countries, so I studied English, went to graduate schools in the U.S. and Canada. Even with a Ph.D. degree, getting an academic job is very competitive nowadays. Luckily, I was in really supportive graduate programs with great mentors, which helped me to be competitive on the job market.
Q: What is your vision or plan for the future?
A: My short-term goal is to set up the undergraduate Korean program at the highest quality in terms of academic experience, career preparation, and student satisfaction. Many of students would like to go to Korea and teach English after graduating the program. My job is to support them in the best way I can. I am now in Korea to build up partnerships with universities in Korea for student exchange programs and closely working with them for extra-curricular activities and benefits such as paid internships, cultural events, free accommodation, etc.
My academic goal is to increase visibility of the learners of the Korean language in the field of applied linguistics. My research interests are motivation for Korean language learning and identity construction. For the next couple of years, I aim to build up strong publication records and hopefully attract some graduate students who are interested in the topic of motivation and identity in language learning.
Q: What do you think are the most important things in choosing a job?
A: To me, the most important thing is how to make contribution to the world with a job, rather than what to take from it. It makes me a bit sad when students are too obsessed with prospect of benefits from a job. I do believe that job satisfaction and personal happiness come from sharing your talent with others. During the preparation stage of your career, focus more on potential contribution you would like to make, which will eventually bring you success in career.
Q: Do you have any message or words of encouragement for our readers?
A: Follow your passion. When I was younger, I saw many different career paths ahead of me, but with experience and time, I now have clearer ideas of who I am and what I am passionate about. Be open-minded and get experience in diverse settings. You will know yourself better. And enjoy the process of learning. Being in school as a student is a privilege. During this period, you should try things out and make mistakes. When things don’t go well, you will learn how to accept the consequence and recover from it. That will make you stronger and wiser.
43rd Edition of Weeklymonday (March 2, 2020)
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