Yusun Lee did not decide to study abroad on a whim. Growing up in South Korea, the natural-born artist wanted to be seen in a new light. Teachers there pushed her based on what she could do, but not her artistic personality. Lee was clear in what she wanted: for her work to be recognized in just one glimpse.
For this to happen, she knew she had to move to the US to be inspired by diverse cultures and to gain the confidence needed to express herself fully. Lee set her sights on California State University to master her craft, but first, she knew she needed the right foundation. Thus, her search for the perfect community college experience began. Soon after, she found everything she was looking for and more at Golden West College (GWC) in sunny California. Its Studio Art program was practically designed to nurture far more than just her technical competencies, but her talent as well. Furthermore, the pictures did GWC’s lustre incredible justice.
Upon arriving in Huntington Beach, otherwise known as “Surf City,” she was pleased to confirm to everyone back home that no photoshopping was involved in the photos she had seen — GWC is one of the most beautiful campuses in Southern California. “I could see the clear skies because of the low buildings,” she recalls of the sight that was virtually unattainable in Seoul. A mesmerized Lee was also able to make friends right off the bat thanks to a laughter-filled, College-hosted trip to The Cheesecake Factory.
Together, Lee and her peers began an unforgettable journey to foundational excellence. “I want to say every art class that I took was memorable: Art History, Life Drawing, Painting, and 3D Color and Design,” she reflects. “I discovered that if I put effort into each artwork, the professor will acknowledge it. In addition, I am aware that lines are prominent in my art style. When I was in South Korea, I constantly got a C, and they told me to ‘use soft lines to achieve an A. Now I’m getting A’s without changing anything. Professors tell me, ‘I can see your style,’ which makes me pleased. Thanks to GWC, I will never abandon my artistic style and will continue to draw in it.”
Her passion for excellence resulted in several awards that made her experience all the more enjoyable. She applied for categories that proved her artistic skills as an international student — a move that resulted in US$1,250 worth of funding from three different awards. “Scholarships allowed me to concentrate on my studies without having to worry about money,” she says.
Financial support was just the tip of the iceberg. When the COVID-19 pandemic was at its peak, Lee had no choice but to return to South Korea. Thankfully, the College ensured her journey to artistic proficiency would not be disrupted. The international student office remained in touch, her visa status was frequently updated, tutors were always available, and the International Student Conversations Zoom session kept online students mentally engaged and culturally aware.
With such offerings, Lee never missed a beat. On and off-campus, she continued to thrive with her end goal in mind. “I believe that maintaining a high GPA is essential for transferring to California State University (Cal State), Long Beach,” she explains.
Her success story is proof — as are the ones of a majority of GWC graduates who all get admitted into their dream US universities. Lee is about to begin an undergraduate degree at CSULB or CSU Long Beach this Fall, where she will continue to nurture her skillset. Her time at GWC has even opened her eyes to more future-focused career paths within the creative sector.
“Computers are used in almost all businesses, and my professors always remind me that design is based on art,” she explains. “This inspired me to become a UX designer who considers the comfort of future generations. It was also a major deciding factor in my decision to change my major from studio art to graphic design.”
None of it would be possible without boundless support from GWC’s Transfer Center and their experienced academic counsellors — all of whom offer a suite of services that enable students to achieve their transfer goals to four-year universities. Offerings include application and transfer workshops, transfer fairs, university campus tours, and appointments with university representatives. In fact, CSULB reps are regular visitors, hence Lee’s smooth journey.