Cynthia Johnson is an alumna of the 2021 CLS Korean Program hosted by Chonnam National University in Gwangju, South Korea. Cynthia graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington with a bachelor’s degree in Critical Language and International Studies with a minor in Korean translation and localization. Cynthia currently works at TransPerfect, a language service/translation provider, where she puts her Korean language skills to use daily. In the future, Cynthia hopes to work in video game localization for a Korea-based company.
Getting to Know Cynthia
I currently live in Colorado but grew up in South Carolina. I come from an artistic and athletic background, in high school I took college level art classes and played varsity basketball. After participating in NSLI-Y (National Security Language Initiative for Youth), I was inspired to study Korean and international studies at the University of Texas at Arlington. After working as a study abroad office assistant, I decided to spend a year in South Korea and studied at Chonnam National University. Since then, I’ve returned to South Korea on two other occasions. My experiences in Korea influenced me tremendously. I now work to advocate for minority groups in the Korean as well as shine a light on societal problems.
I decided to study Korean because I was infatuated with the culture. Like many others, my first experience with the language was through dramas and movies. I didn’t come from a diverse community, and it was difficult finding outlets for my new interests. I didn’t let myself be discouraged by the lack of opportunities, instead I let it fuel me. I continue to invest in the Korean language daily and create goals to expand my knowledge of the language, culture, and history. I’ve created invaluable relationships with people of similar interests as well as with Koreans. It is important to me that I can connect with Korean people in their native language and make them feel comfortable and at ease speaking with me.
In college, I minored in Korean localization and translation. I often questioned what I would do with a degree in international studies but who knew there was a field where tech and language collided? It was a huge goal of mine to graduate college with a job lined up in this industry and I am happy to say that I achieved this. Since I’ve started, half of my projects have been Korean related due to my experiences, and I look forward to continuing to use my Korean cultural and communication skills. Eventually, I would like to work in video game localization for a Korea-based company.
A Catalyst for Self-Reflection
One thing that greatly impacted me was my results on the program. I had been studying the Korean language for quite some time and had dedicated a lot of energy to it. I was placed in the highest level and often complimented by my teachers for speaking the most natural and like Koreans. However, I struggled greatly when it came to tests and proficiency exams. Most of my language abilities had come from immersion settings and interacting with Koreans, so I was not used to rigorous study and advanced Korean topics. It was the first time I felt challenged in my Korean abilities. On top of that, I came to learn that being introverted affected my language capability. I thought to myself, “If I don’t want to talk in English in this situation, how can I motivate myself to speak in Korean?” I realized I needed to speak up more to accurately show my level of skill. CLS allowed me to self-reflect on my language abilities and better understand how to improve. I am currently studying for the TOPIK (Test of Proficiency in Korean) exam, and I am excited to take the test and see just how much I learned on the program.
Words of Advice
My advice for those applying to CLS would be to carefully think about what your target language means to you and strategically state its importance and your plans for using it in the future. Also, consider what distinguishes you from other applicants and emphasize that as well. For those considering CLS, you will never regret visiting a new place and learning to communicate in a way that will connect you to new people.
June 10, 2022