From an island in Korea to a leader for climate change in D.C.


For Yoonseo Cho, a young STEM student from Jeju Island, the biggest island 50 miles off the coast of South Korea, going to college in the Seoul metropolitan area, was a dream come true. Being a pandemic generation student, however, her dreams of studying at a university were cut short, as she spent three semesters back home in Jeju Island persistently taking chemical engineering and landscape architecture classes.

Yoonseo Cho
Yoonseo Cho did one of her internships with the Green Climate Fund in Songdo. Photo provided

While volunteering at the Jeju Forum for Peace and Prosperity, she had the chance to see world leaders discussing the pressing issues of climate change and environmental policies. Her short interaction with Roland Wilson, associate professor of conflict analysis and resolution at Mason Korea, at the panels opened a new door of possibilities for her to become one of those leaders through Mason Korea.

Cho’s parents were the first to encourage her to transfer from her university to Mason Korea in Songdo, an hour away from Seoul. Their support motivated her to find a path to combine her original studies in chemical engineering and landscape architecture with global affairs. She especially saw potential career opportunities with the vaccine manufacturing facility expansion in the heart of Songdo.

Cho quickly adjusted to the American college setting. After a semester, she got involved with and became president of MK Green Patriots, a student organization that provides students with community service opportunities that promote sustainable campus life.

“In many cases, it is difficult to obtain leadership opportunities at a major Korean university since the student organizations have a longer history and rigid traditions,” she said. “While Mason Korea might be smaller in size, through my experience, I never doubted the output students created.”

Her journey in fostering climate change continued as she finished two internships before her junior year at the Fairfax Campus this year. As an assistant to the liaison officer at the Green Climate Fund, headquartered in Songdo, Yoonseo worked on various internal affairs that improved the transition for international employees to Korea. She also worked as a research intern at a green tech startup contributing to sustainable interior design solutions.

“I truly appreciated the efforts made by Mason Korea staff to produce opportunities for Mason Korea students,” she said. “As much as there is a smaller student-to-faculty ratio, there was a stronger bond, which allowed students to acquire opportunities in local firms and organizations that also represent a global audience.”

Cho is now a rising senior in George Mason University’s Global Affairs Program and a greenhouse research intern for University Sustainability. She is excited to widen her scope of the world as an international student in the United States and to be at the frontline of environmental policy in Washington, D.C.

When asked what it means to be a Patriot, she said, “The intangible difference is being part of a diverse community, which not only includes students but also faculty members with different sets of values and ideas. Furthermore, the intangible is the mindset of going beyond taking classes and getting good grades; being involved in the community with a shared identity that can change the world around you.”