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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.

“In particular, one time last summer my girlfriend got really sick while we were in the countryside of Korea,” he said. “The people in the town spoke broken English, but could not understand what was going on with her. My language skills helped us navigate the system to get her the care she needed. Everything turned out OK.”

 

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. 

 


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Diversity

Our Statement on Diversity in support of Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk and the University of Kansas Black Student Union’s efforts to combat racism.
The School of Languages & Cultures serves as a gateway to understanding the diversity of the world, through learning languages, literatures, and cultures, past and present. Through its research and teaching, the SLLC offers students opportunities for deep engagement with a wide range of languages, literatures, and cultures that provide the knowledge and skills to interact with and understand the world. The faculty and students who teach, research, and learn in the SLLC consider issues of diversity fundamental to all of our work. The study of others' languages, literatures, and cultures enables us to develop deep empathy and perspective informs the way that we approach issues before us, whether on a personal, local, regional, national, or global scale. Therefore take it as axiomatic that the SLLC stands for a campus that is committed to the meaningful sharing, contemplation, and discussion of ideas that emerge from multiple cultural perspectives and experiences. We continually rededicate ourselves to the principle of diversity. We strive to create an atmosphere where all students and faculty feel comfortable and welcome to express their views as well as work together to solve conflict. Further, we view our mission as a center of diversity on a flagship campus as requiring us to lead by example.

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