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Jonathan Lee

"I had always been interested in anything related to East Asia"

Having spent much of my childhood in Seoul, I came to realize I had always been interested in anything related to East Asia. I signed up for four AMES classes that fall and never looked back.

How did you become interested in AMES/Asian Studies?

I became interested in the AMES program because of its interdisciplinary nature. I enjoyed approaching East Asia from multiple angles (language, history, literature, religion, etc.), and I believe it provided a comprehensive view of the region.

How did your interest develop while at Northwestern?

Initially, I entered Northwestern as a political science/economics double major but disliked the material. I returned home my freshman summer and really thought about what I was passionate about. Having spent much of my childhood in Seoul, I came to realize I had always been interested in anything related to East Asia. I signed up for four AMES classes that fall and never looked back.

What were your favorite courses and professors and why?

I liked Chinese literature classes that provided a fresh look at material I normally wouldn’t have picked up to read. 

I also enjoyed my independent study and senior thesis work with Peter Carroll. He provided me with the guidance and mentorship necessary to complete such a rigorous process. I continue to use the research and writing skills I learned from the effort to this day.

If you studied abroad, where did you go? How did the experience affect you?

I studied abroad in Beijing at Beida my sophomore summer through a program called CIEE. I feel the 8-week experience really transformed my language skills. I made tremendous gains while at the same time met tons of new friends and travelled throughout the country.

How has your AMES/ASP coursework affected your career and/or your life in general?

The coursework has provided me with a deeper understanding of the region. I think the analytical skills the program helped develop have been beneficial, and the Chinese + Korean language skills will continue to pay off.

What are you currently doing as far as employment? Further education, etc.?

After graduation, I went to Oxford University for a MSc in Modern Chinese Studies. I wrote my thesis on the US-China trade relationship using the auto industry as a case study.

Currently, I am a second year student at the University of Michigan Law School and will be working as a summer associate at Sidley Austin in New York in 2014.

What might you say to an undergrad regarding the value of Asian Studies courses?

The AMES program allows students to view the region in a diverse way which I think adds new perspective. You can understand the region not only from a historical context or a political theory approach or a religious view but by combining all these different approaches you walk away with a deep understanding of the region.

Any other experiences related to your course of study, whether in Evanston, abroad, or elsewhere, that you find particularly meaningful?

I started a non-profit organization called Bridges Across Asia with some friends while at Northwestern. Using my knowledge of the region, we provided a launch pad network of volunteers/fundraising capabilities/connections to students who wanted to pursue community service projects that they were passionate about in the region.

During my time at Oxford University, I co-founded a for-profit social venture in Shanghai with some friends. We aimed to connect small time organic farmers on Chongming Island with local area businesses/restaurants/stores. By aggregating the supply and providing logistical/distribution support, we hoped to increase the profitability of and incentivize more people to enter organic and sustainable farming.
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