Becoming an international educator | IE Career Series

Jan 7, 2020    Source: Vivien Lee

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Welcome to our career series, where we’re asking international education (IE) professionals to share the inside scoop on the sector. This is part two of our conversation with Soojin Kim. Read part one where she shares a day in her work life.

Q: Can you please tell us about your current role?

A: I’m currently the Coordinator, International Partnership and Mobility in the Office of International Collaboration and Development at Royal Roads University (RRU) in Victoria, BC.

In this role, I work with institutional partners around the globe to coordinate agreements and international partnership opportunities for the RRU community. I also manage RRU’s Education Abroad program and coordinate student mobility exchange, visiting students, and short-term study abroad opportunities.

Q: Think back to five years ago. Did you envision your career as it is today?

A: Yes and no.

I’ve always been passionate about international education. I worked in various capacities including recruitment and marketing, partnerships and business development, and student services at RRU after working with private language schools and education consultants. As an international liaison coordinator, I was originally focused on bringing the world to Canada. However, after expanding into the role, I realized there is a broader potential for internationalization within the public post-secondary sector.

After working in the international education sector for more than 13 years, I’ve learned that internationalization at home requires a much more complex, multi-strategy approach. It encompasses goals beyond just recruitment, like expanding intercultural competencies and the diversification of learning outcomes. While I certainly saw myself working in international education, my understanding of the opportunities in the sector has grown and I love that my experience aligns with RRU’s journey in expanding its approach to internationalization.

Q: What was your path to your current role today? What are some past experiences that helped you prepare for the international education sector?

A: I’m originally from South Korea, spent part of my childhood in the US, and my K-12 education at an international school in Tokyo, Japan. Then I move to Korea to finish my degree and came to Canada as an ESL student. Much of my life was spent as an international student, which led to both cross-cultural awareness and my passion for pursuing a career in international education. My personal journey has blended with my professional trajectory in giving me insights into developing strategic partnerships to support students pursuing international experiences, whether they are domestic students going abroad or international students looking to study in Canada.

Q: What would you tell your younger self?

A: In 2008, people – mainly my friends, professors, and fellow students – were telling me I was making a crazy choice in moving to Canada to begin my career. My supervising professor advised me to take a path towards an embassy job in Korea or Japan.  As a trilingual (Korean, Japanese, English) student, he felt that it made more sense that I stay in Korea or Japan, and that I was passing up many opportunities. I didn’t yet have a permanent job in Canada, but I had a strong pull towards establishing myself there, and really felt that my multicultural background fit with Canadian society. In hindsight, I would tell my younger self: "Don’t worry, follow your instincts, you were right."

Q: What is one piece of advice you would tell up-and-coming international education professionals?

A: Be open minded and don’t pigeonhole yourself within the sector. International education is rapidly changing, and there are opportunities to learn and influence the industry as you grow your career. Collaboration with partners and colleagues is obviously vital, but opportunities can also arise from working with fellow institutions and drawing ideas from unexpected places. Those who can think outside the box will have an opportunity to shape the industry in new and vital ways.