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2020 Hawai‘i College Guide

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(page 15 of 17)

More Than a Degree

Getting involved outside the classroom gave me real-world experiences (and friendships) my classes didn’t.

by Shinae Lee


More than a degree

Shinae (standing, third from right) with the Spring 2019 editors of City on a Hill Press.
photo: courtesy of shinae lee


Being in college is about more than just academics. Sure, my degree says Bachelor of Arts in Feminist Studies, but if I were to count the hours I spent on my major versus time spent in the student newsroom, there’d be no question I actually majored in City on a Hill Press (University of California, Santa Cruz’s student-run weekly). I spent most of my time working for CHP, and was also a staff member for UCSC’s Korean American Student Association.


While my extracurriculars were technically hobbies, they ended up helping me in my future career. Planning events for the Korean American Student Association as its secretary led me to a part-time paid position working for UCSC’s Student Media office, and I later landed my internship at HONOLULU Magazine because of my work at the student newspaper.


But becoming a student leader took some work. I entered the university as a shy freshman who only ventured out with my two roommates. I had no idea what I wanted to do after graduation—I chose my major because I knew I wouldn’t get tired of feminism. But toward the end of my freshman year, I decided to try journalism.


I applied to the student newspaper and started as a reporter. It was way outside of my comfort zone to meet new people and immediately probe them for information, and every time it was like tearing off a Band-Aid. Just gotta do it. For my first story I even worked up the courage to interview dorm residents by blindly knocking on their doors. I enjoyed reporting so much that I started emailing sources and writing drafts in my lecture classes (not saying you should do this, but do try to find your passion!).



Shinae (bottom left) with graduating friends she met in the Korean American Student Association and other organizations.
photo: winggo Tse


Now that I loved one student organization, I wanted to try them all. I became a regular at Korean American Student Association meetings, met some of my best friends in Japanese Student Association and learned how to dance (and fangirled over K-pop) in POPreKa, UCSC’s K-pop dance group. I didn’t sleep much my second year, but I loved school. My new friends became my family away from home, giving me instant comfort the moment I saw them at events or meetings.


By senior year I was the Korea association’s vice president and managing editor at the paper, and had gotten a job as print coordinator for Student Media. I planned events and managed a newspaper, all the while making connections. I had grown from my shy freshman self to being comfortable leading a meeting of 50 people and, as a reporter, asking student government leaders why they misused thousands of dollars.


In life after graduation, nobody’s asked me to write a 10-page research paper, but the skills I learned, including mentoring others and meeting deadlines, can be applied at any job. Beyond the résumé entries, it’s the memories of laughter, late nights, homemade news memes and friendships that I’ll keep with me. Sitting in a lecture hall, not as much.


Which organization should you join?

  • Professional and academic: Academic associations and career-oriented organizations can provide connections and future job tips.

  • Ethnic and identity: Race-, religion- and sexual orientation-based organizations can help you find people you relate to, who can be part of your community at college.

  • General interest: From a capella to the environment, discover what you’re passionate about.

  • Greek letter: Despite stereotypes, fraternities and sororities can provide a tight-knit community, and alumni networks can be useful.

  • Service: Volunteer and raise money to support a cause. Organizations can include the American Red Cross, Rotaract clubs or the American Cancer Society.


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