Wooyoung Choi studied for two years to earn a master of laws degree from the UConn School of Law, then travelled nearly 7,000 miles to attend commencement in person.
On Sunday she walked onto the stage under a huge tent on the UConn Law campus in Hartford to collect her diploma, one of three students in the Executive LLM program based in Seoul, South Korea, to attend the ceremony in person.
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When Choi decided to make the trip to Connecticut for commencement, she reached out to other students in the joint program and found that Daehoun An and Soo A Kang also planned to attend. The program has graduated 68 students in the past five years, but this year marked the first time any of them took part in commencement.
UConn Law operates the Executive LLM program as part of a dual degree with Hallym University of Graduate Studies in South Korea, known as HUGS. Instruction takes place in English and has been entirely online since the beginning of the pandemic.
While Choi and An made the trip from South Korea, Kang was already in the United States. She had moved to Virginia during the course of her studies.
All three said they made this trip to forge a bond with the law school and feel like a part of UConn Nation. They also all agreed it was worth the travel to be present.
“I want to attend and represent Huskies, everywhere, regardless of how far from Hartford, and pay respect to other Huskies” An said.
An decided to pursue a legal education after getting help from lawyers to comply with regulations as he started a business in banking and finance. The accessibility of the UConn/HUGS program made it appealing and gives him opportunities to expand the business, he said.
Kang, who is considering further education and deciding what kind of law she wants to practice, brought her husband and three children from Virginia for the weekend.
“I want to let my family enjoy being a UConn family,” she said. “They will see me in a new context, as a mom who studies energetically and never gives up. The memory will stay with them through their lives.”
Choi, who also plans to visit New York City and Washington, D.C. on her first trip to the United States, hopes this ceremony will be a turning point in her life and career. She currently works as an in-house attorney at Starbucks Korea and plans to keep studying U.S. and international law to help her advance as a leader and compliance officer in multinational corporate law.
“UConn Law taught me how to best study U.S. law and it opened my eyes to understand corporate law practice,” she said. “I was able to acquire a great depth of skills and knowledge by analyzing complex legal issues through outstanding professors and a well-organized curriculum.”
The HUGS graduates said the UConn Law commencement ceremony was similar to the ones they have experienced in South Korea, but bigger. There was more pomp and circumstance and more ornate caps and gowns.
UConn began its partnership with HUGS with a non-degree program and then introduced the Executive LLM in 2018. Students pursue the LLM degree in addition to a Masters in Global Legal Practice offered by HUGS. The dual-degree program gives law students credentials to advance their careers while also providing an opportunity, if the students choose, to work toward qualifying to take a bar exam in the United States.