Michael Choi will be a first-year Masters candidate in the Asian Studies program at the Elliott School this fall, concentrating in politics & policy and international security. He received his bachelor’s degree in history at St. John’s University in 2011. His interests are intra-Asian relationships between Northeast and Southeast Asian countries as well as security cooperation and alliance management within the region. Michael is returning to school after serving eight years in the military. Michael enjoys running half-marathons, hiking, and yoga.
What has been your most rewarding academic experience so far?
I am actually returning to school after 8 years in the military. I would say that my most rewarding professional experience would be working in a military liaison office at the US Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia. Indonesia is a country with a diverse population, culture, and landscape. Working in an interagency environment with embassy sections and different agency representatives was a step outside my comfort zone but immensely impactful. I had opportunities to brief the US Ambassador, senior Indonesian military officers, and interact with not only locals but expats from all over the world.
What made you interested in your MA program of choice?
While working in a military liaison office at the US Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, I worked with not only Indonesian military officers, but various US interagency organizations as well as Indonesian security organizations, working on counterterrorism and counter violent extremism initiatives unique to Indonesia and the region. I also participated in joint US-ROK exercises for contingency operations on the Korean peninsula. Coming into the military, I was primarily interested in the war zones which meant Afghanistan and Iraq for me, but I got drawn into Asia
Many of my friends who left the service are pursuing an MBA program or going straight to management positions in corporate America. I am quite the anomaly in that sense, pursuing a regional studies degree. But at the end of the day, I am embracing this opportunity to take the less beaten path and pursue my passion.
What would be your dream job after completing your program?
I have several prospective jobs in my head, but that’s part of why I am at GWU. After spending 8 years in the military, I am not sure what kind of career I want to pursue, which is why I came back to school to broaden my knowledge on Asia and its most pertinent issues, network with people of diverse academic and professional backgrounds, and see what is out there!
One of the career paths I am looking into is working for a strategy consulting firm, focused on the Asia-Pacific market of course! A large part of my job in the military involved advising both US and foreign military and security partner organizations, so I feel comfortable in that aspect, but I want to broaden my scope of work that goes beyond the defense industry.
Ultimately, my goal is to be in a career field where I stay engaged in the Asia region and contribute American policymakers and businesses navigate this complex region.
Do you keep up with the Kardashians?
Is that still going on? Apparently not nearly enough then. When I Netflix and chill on my recliner, it’s usually a House of Cards marathon or watching Game of Thrones on HBO. I am actually waiting for the final season episodes to come out, so it’s been hard to avoid the spoilers because of social media!
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