“Humphrey fellowship is the opportunity that you could not have anywhere else. Just enjoy every minute.”
Gahyeok Lee, the inaugural Humphrey cohort from South Korea in Cronkite School, advised the current and future fellows to enjoy the academic support of ASU and Cronkite and enjoy the life in the U.S. Lee started his career as a journalist of JTBC, which is one of the major TV stations in South Korea. He worked as the team leader of JTBC’s Fact Check program, which pioneered the fact check journalism in South Korea. His team also got the certificate by International Fact Check Network, which is the first case in South Korea.
Recently, I had a chance to interview Gahyeok on his experiences and learning during Humphrey fellowship.
Q: Please tell me who you are and what you do.
“My name is Gahyeok Lee. I completed my Humphrey fellowship at Cronkite in 2021-2022. I am a TV journalist and news anchor at JTBC, one of the major TV stations in South Korea. I host JTBC’s morning news show, ‘Sangamdong Class,’ on weekdays.”
Q: Why did you apply for this fellowship?
“I started my journalism career in 2011. After 10 years of working, I really wanted to have a special moment for refining my insight in a more colorful way. The Humphrey fellowship was the right choice for me at that time. The fact that it is supported by the U.S. government also fascinated me.
Q: What is the No. 1 asset you gained from the Humphrey fellowship?
“Definitely cultural diversity. Diversity is one of the most important values in journalism, but I rarely realized it in my ordinary days, with the excuse of being busy. Cronkite Global is a truly diverse atmosphere, and I enjoyed enriched discussions with fellows from Belize to South Sudan. As a TV presenter and journalist, the value of diversity I learned at Cronkite is very helpful for me now.
Q: What kind of student were you at Cronkite?
“I was simply enjoying the entire academic journey at Cronkite. I relished the reflection papers by Dr. Marianne Barrett, and I also received valuable mentoring from Dr. Jeff Timmermans. I recall exploring many hidden places in Arizona with my cohort, including Balint Fabok from Hungary and Elita Karim from Bangladesh. The beautiful nature of Arizona is still vivid in my memory. The sunsets of Sedona, the cool breeze of Flagstaff, and the welcoming atmosphere of Tucson all remind me of the golden times in Arizona. Among them, my family and I miss the beautiful city of Phoenix.”
Q: You had a hard time caring for your newborn daughter during the fellowship.
“Yes, my daughter was born in July 2021, while I was in the pre-academic English program in Kansas. She joined me in the U.S. in September. I spent almost a year in Phoenix with my newborn daughter, Ajeong. As an international student, it was quite challenging to care for a baby. Going to the nearby pediatric hospital and getting vaccinations for her was difficult. However, the more challenging my fellowship was, the better my life was with my little daughter. I was fortunate not to have her experience any serious medical issues other than some minor colds.
I also received significant help with caring for my daughter from my Cronkite Global friends. I particularly remember when we had a Christmas party at Dr. Juan Mundel’s house. At that time, my Humphrey coordinator, Ms. Adrienne Spencer, and her family cared for my little daughter. Adrienne’s intention was to give my wife and me some ‘freedom’ from baby care. I felt her kindness and deep consideration as if she and her family were my family in Korea. My daughter also enjoyed interacting with Adrienne and her daughters.
For my family, my global friend Mrs. Henrietta Andersson was a big friend and mentor for me. I would also like to thank her and her family. They made people feel the lives of American people. For example, on Easter and Thanksgiving, my spouse and two daughters visited her house and could feel the love of the warm family.”
Q: Who was your favorite professor during your fellowship?
“I cannot name just one. Of course, my favorite professor is Dr. Juan Mundel. Dr. Mundel refined my insight in terms of PR strategy, digital engagement, diversity, and internationalization. He was a dedicated professor to us. As a teacher, a friend, and a scholar, he was a wonderful mentor. I also want to mention Dr. Jeff Timmermans, who was my mentor during my fellowship. A well-known business journalist from WSJ and a journalism scholar, his advice was very helpful to me.”
Q: But it seems like you miss Kansas more. How was your life in Kansas for English training?
“I completed a two-month pre-academic English training at KU. I also cherished my peaceful life in Kansas. I am very grateful for the support and efforts of the KU International Short Program team. I successfully finished my pre-academic English training at the University of Kansas. Lawrence, the city of KU, was a peaceful and academic location. However, if I had to choose one, my answer is being a Sun Devil.”
Q: If you were to return to Cronkite as a Humphrey fellow, what would you do?
“I hope to prepare for my English skills before returning to Phoenix. I would take more classes at Cronkite, as well as at ASU Tempe campus. I want to improve my communication skills by meeting more friends at ASU. After my Humphrey year, I realized that the most important thing is how to enjoy and learn in the U.S. and at ASU.”
Q: Feel free to add your advice for future fellows and applicants for the Humphrey fellowship.
“If you need a substantial career upgrade as a mid-career expert, the answer is the Humphrey fellowship. If you are hesitating, just apply. And if you are currently a Humphrey fellow, participate in every activity or event without exception. Don’t make any excuses. Every minute is yours. For some, it may seem like just a year without much insight, but it can be a year as meaningful as 10 years.”