Alumni Spotlight: Clara Suh

Alumni Spotlight: Clara Suh, BS ’10

By Rebecca Carter

Clara Suh Clara Suh, BS ’10
Photo by Tom Queally

Clara Suh, a cheerful and driven recent alumna of the USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development, brought home many valuable lessons – both professional and personal – from her internship in Asia.

Suh, who graduated in May with a Bachelor of Science in Public Policy, Management, and Planning and a minor in German, spent the summer after her sophomore year working in Hong Kong as part of the USC Global Fellows Internship Program.

The program, which provides stipends for undergraduates to live and work in Asia for eight weeks over the summer, aims to strengthen the bonds of understanding between the United States and other countries. The candidates chosen as fellows are passionate global citizens with the desire to be U.S. and USC ambassadors abroad, and typically are excellent students with outstanding university involvement, according to the program’s Web site.

As a student, Suh became interested in Asia after learning about the rapid growth of China in the global economy and in the automobile industry during a course at SPPD, Urban Planning and Development 227. She also learned how the expanding population would increase the need for infrastructure, as the government will need to provide basic necessities to people living in developing areas.

“I wanted to know more about the pace of development overseas,” Suh says.

The prospect of being there in person, and experiencing the culture first hand, is what motivated Suh to participate in the Global Fellows program — affording her the opportunity to see how lessons in the classroom could be used in a real-world setting.

During her internship in Hong Kong, Suh worked 45 hours a week at a property management and development firm. Among the many things she learned was the political aspect of the planning process.

And although Suh gained a wealth of career experience, she noted that her personal growth exceeded her professional development. Not only was the internship the first time she had spent by herself abroad, but she also developed meaningful relationships with people from other parts of the world.

“I really enjoyed getting to know different people and their cultural background as well as getting past language barriers, to a point where people will trust and respect you,” she said.

Suh added that the opportunity to work in Hong Kong helped her realize she can make an important, positive impact on communities, whether locally or globally.

“I don’t feel like I’m hindered, that I’m restricted to one geographic area,” she explained. “Even though there’s so much room and potential for growth in Southern California, having had experience overseas showed me that I don’t have to be limited to one city or to one country.”

And after her graduation, she has already made plans to continue working abroad.

Recently, Suh was awarded a Fulbright scholarship and will participate in the English Teaching Assistantship program. For one year, beginning in July, she will teach English to elementary school children in South Korea.

Professor David Sloane, who is director of SPPD’s undergraduate programs and a mentor to Suh, said that she was a perfect candidate for both the Global Fellows and the Fulbright programs.

“She wants to get out there and change the world, which is true of many of our students,” he said. “They want to get out and improve the world, and Clara is no different. There are a lot of things you can do in a Fulbright program, and it’s just an example of why she’s a wonderful representative of our school.”