A Final Reflection

Looking back at my two weeks in South Korea, I have started to realize just how much I have learned. Between the company visits, university lectures, and cultural experiences, it’s clear that I have had a once in a lifetime opportunity studying abroad. Perhaps more important than the memories I have made or the classroom knowledge I have accrued, this trip have given real insights into my profession.

No matter where you, no matter what you do, any profession will bring a number of ethical issues and challenges. Studying the business side of South Korea’s smart systems integration is no exception. Some of the technologies we saw firsthand were controversial. NAVER’s machine learning, for example, comes with its fair share of ethical ambiguity when utilizing the people tracking and audio manipulation applications. With a business mindsight, it’s easy to see how much money could be made selling this sort of technology to government. With the threat of “Big Brother” constantly looming, national agencies could enhance their surveillance. But at what cost? Taking the time to explore the ethics behind the inventions has been eye-opening.

That kind of exploration barely scratches the surface of what I have come to learn from my time abroad. This trip has really expanded my knowledge in areas I never really thought of pursuing. As I said in my introductory post, I plan on going into law. Couple that with the business majors I am currently pursuing at Pitt, I have laid out a fairly specific plan for my future studies. But these past two weeks, they have enriched my knowledge of the future of technologies via smart systems and more simply, my knowledge of the world.

Beyond that, this experience has reinforced the mantra of “lifelong education” so many academics try to preach. “The learning doesn’t stop when you leave the classroom,” they often say. If my time in Korea has taught me any one thing, it’s that those academics are telling the truth. I find myself growing comfortable in familiar environments. In getting accustomed to Oakland this past year, I think I fell into a rhythm of focusing my attention on learning only while I was in class. But in a new, strange, and foreign land halfway across the world, I had to constantly be learning to get by. It was longer about memorizing concepts and vocabulary but rather life skills and lessons. “Okay, how do I use the subway system when I can’t read the language? How do I overcome the obvious barrier and communicate with these people selling street food?” While these questions might not come up in my future profession, the development of these skills is certainly valuable.

In the same breath as communicating with street vendors, I have had to learn how to navigate the social environment of business and networking. How the people behind Plus3 Korea 2019 were able to organize such a diverse and qualified set of companies and business leaders is beyond me. But trying to communicate with them and take advantage of my opportunities was a challenge. I had to learn how to ask the right questions with the limited time we had. I had to learn to how to really specify what I wanted to get out of each and every interaction.  

And believe me, the buck didn’t stop when we left the company and interacting amongst ourselves. Being placed on a student team of business and engineering majors had its fair of struggles too. When it became time to assemble our final project, our discipline-focused visions collided. We had little time to clash as we sorted out what it is we wanted ed to accomplish as a team. That experience may have been the most underrated part of trip. The project task was simple, but seeing how each and every team approach it, adding their own flairs of business and engineering was both interesting and exciting. All in all, my two weeks studying abroad in South Korea through Pitt were a truly memorable experience. I doubt I’ll soon forget the memories I made alongside my fellow classmates. And I’ll long be thankful to the university for providing me with this opportunity of a lifetime. I owe special thank you to the two professors who lead our adventure, Dr. Yun and Dr. Clarke. They really were the best leaders we could ask for. So long Plus3 Korea!

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