Jae Hun Shin: 'There is a great deal of value in challenging yourself to work outside of your comfort zone'

Jae Hun Shin

Philosophy & Comparative Literature

Seoul, South Korea

What is your main extracurricular activity--why is it important to you?

I'm a member of Absolute A Cappella, and have been since my second semester at Cornell. Music is an integral part of my life, and the group has been my main way of keeping in touch with my love for singing and performing in general. It's also been a great source of emotional support, as I've met many of my closest friends at Cornell through Absolute. It's a source of pride for me that I'm associated with such talented individuals, and I'm extremely grateful to each one of them for having made such a positive impact on my life.

What was your most profound turning point while at Cornell?

I think the most significant turning point I experienced here was when I finally decided on my two majors. I'd done a lot of searching outside of my comfort zone to try and find an area of study I could really do well in. I looked around right up to the last few days of my sophomore year and made the decision to choose my two majors, despite the fact that I knew job opportunities could be scarce for an international student in the humanities. Looking back, I think I chose my happiness and my mental well-being over a perhaps more economically viable major, and I don't regret that. Besides, I don't think there's anything wrong with really pushing oneself to excel at a field of study; after all, if opportunities are rarer, that just means I have to work harder to get there.

If you were to offer advice to an incoming first year student, what would you say?

I would tell them to take their graduation requirements seriously. Even if they know what they're most interested in — in fact, especially if they know — there is a great deal of value in challenging yourself to work outside of your comfort zone and try to learn something else. In my opinion, having a broad knowledge of many different subjects not only gives you a more open mind, but also allows you to connect with people from different walks of life. For instance, will you remember, a couple years down the line, details about a certain philosophical theory that you studied in a class you just happened to take for a course requirement? Probably not, but the knowledge you gain from having recognized that there is such a train of thought doesn't really disappear, and will likely help you understand other people better.

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		 Jae Hun Shin