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Amy Lee remembers August 18th, 2013 as the day that changed her life. That’s when she came to the United States for the first time. She barely had time to register any culture shock before she arrived on campus at CSULB for orientation the next day. It was a whirlwind journey from her native South Korea, but she needed to get acclimated to her new home quickly. Fortunately, following a recommendation from a friend, CSULB’s American Language Institute (ALI) was there to welcome her.

“Living abroad is a journey of discoveries, and it’s quite intense,” said Lee. “It takes many extreme and unexpected turns. ALI gave me a chance to see a glimpse of what college life would look like in America. The program not only provides academics, but also it makes sure students fully understand the culture of college life and interpersonal communication skills.”

With over 30 years of experience, the ALI has hosted students from all around the world, helping them improve their English language skills in preparation for further educational and professional opportunities in the U.S. In Lee’s case, the ALI gave her the preparation she needed to pursue a bachelor’s degree.

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After finishing the nine-month ALI program, which also afforded her the opportunity to take her first U.S. college courses simultaneously, Lee was ready to stay. She even created a PowerPoint presentation to persuade her parents that it was a good idea to enroll in a full-time degree program at CSULB’s College of Business Administration. Soon, she was diving head-first into classes and extracurricular activities like the Student Center for Professional Development. She also began working for the Center for International Education (CIE) as a student assistant, which eventually led to her serving as President of the International Students Association (ISA) during her last semester.

“I loved the experience that I was able to get,” she said, “meeting people from different countries and getting to know their unique perspectives. In my first semester, I didn’t even imagine that I could make any contributions to CSULB, but I was able to—not because I’m smart, but because people around me inspired me to break out of my comfort zone.” 

Lee graduated last fall with honors, earning her bachelor’s degree in Business Marketing, and soon found work as a Marketing Coordinator at Palace Entertainment. The company, based in Newport Beach, operates 40 amusement parks, water parks, and family entertainment centers throughout the U.S.

Lee notes that her experiences at ALI and other student organizations at CSULB—which included leadership workshops, internships, and volunteering opportunities—were important steps that got her where she is today.

“I would like to share this with other international students, to show them they can have a successful experience, if they learn the language and live the culture in the community they are in,” she said. 

“I did not want to wait for something to come to me,” said Lee of her journey. “I always looked for something that can challenge me to do my best. I am looking forward to all the crazy adventures that await me!”

Filed under Alumni Profiles

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