Hyung Seok Lee has always been a hard worker. He learned it from his parents. In his native South Korea, he worked at a KFC, worked 12-hour shifts at a taco stand slinging food. He ran deliveries for the fashion industry. He followed his passion for clothes and worked in retail fashion, and learned how to sew in a clothing factory.
But he never considered higher education, at least until he joined the South Korean army. “At the time, I didn’t enjoy studying. My only interest was fashion. Then, I went to the army and everything changed,” he says. One of his senior officers, who attended a prestigious university in Korea, insisted that education was the key to success. His words of encouragement influenced Hyung Seok to make the decision to come to the US to study.
Now, Hyung Seok has been in Corvallis for a year and a half. He is one of more than 600 international students from 29 different countries enrolled through INTO OSU, Oregon State’s partnership with the U.K.-based company, INTO University Partnerships. It’s the first of its kind in the U.S., and was designed in part to increase international enrollment on campus.
Hyung Seok started at OSU through one of INTO OSU’s “Pathway” programs, which offers students a full year of instruction and a breadth of support services to accelerate their success. And he was successful. He graduated from the Undergraduate Pathway program, achieving honor roll status every term. “The Pathway program definitely prepared me for success,” he says. “I am now attending OSU and I know how to make a plan for every class. Even though my classes are higher level now, it’s basically using the same skills but with different material. I know how to study now. And I learned everything in the INTO program.”
Recently, Hyung Seok was appointed president of the Korean Student Association at OSU. With approximately 80 members, the Korean Student Association exists to support Korean students and to educate people about Korean culture. “Anyone who is interested in Korean culture can join us and learn about our culture. Everyone is welcome, even non-Korean students,” Hyung Seok says. “For Korean students, it feels good to hang out with people from their own country. It’s not the best way to learn English, but in many ways it is good for their mind. They need that.”
Keeping his studies, his responsibilities as KSA president and his social activities in balance is a challenge for Hyung Seok. But between playing basketball on a daily basis, and spending three or more hours at the library every day, he still finds time to organize activities for KSA—like an upcoming trip to the Oregon Coast, and Korean Cultural Night.
And Hyung Seok is still passionate about fashion. It’s his plan for the future, only now he’ll have a degree. “I used to think I would be the owner of a fashion store, and that I didn’t need to study abroad to achieve this goal,” he says. “But now I know the key to success is studying. The decision to study abroad changed my life. When I graduate from OSU with my BA in business, I plan to continue my studies in fashion merchandising.