He had offers from other law schools. Marquette, Iowa and KU rounded out his personal short list, with Marquette at the top so that he could stay close to home. But KU had something the others didn’t: the opportunity to earn both a master’s in Asian Languages and Cultures, and a J.D. at the same time. Justin Kohlbeck was sold.
After earning his B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Justin got a job offer that sent him to Busan, South Korea, where he fell in love with the language and the people. “When I came back to the U.S., I wanted to leverage those skills and that experience,” he said. “That is what brought me to KU.”
During his four years in South Korea, Justin saw first-hand how knowing a host country’s language goes a long way in socialization, travel and even health care.
While Justin’s current employment doesn’t give him many opportunities to use his foreign languages, he’s already seen how prospective employers are attracted to his skills.
“I worked as a human rights intern last summer for a NGO in Seoul. I would not have received the job offer without my language skills,” he said. “Also, the topic comes up in just about every interview I have been in over the past three or four years, especially with immigration law firms and government agencies.”
With three semesters of German from the University of Wisconsin and six semesters of Korean from KU under his belt, Justin has plenty of worthwhile advice for those learning a new language.
“Do not be afraid to make mistakes because, generally, most people will understand you anyhow. You can clean up the errors as you go along. There are people who will constantly try to fix every error you make. For the most part, they either never learned a language or forgot how difficult it is to learn a language. It's best to take criticism lightly. Go to a country where you can live for an extended period of time. Without having numerous opportunities every day to speak the language, your skills will never fully develop. Be patient. Learning languages takes a lot of time and effort.”
Justin will take the Texas Bar Exam this summer, and is exploring opportunities with the Department of Justice, Department of State and Department of Homeland Security.