Meet Wilson Lee

Wilson Lee  
HS College & Guidance Counselor
Yongsan International School of Seoul (Korea)

How did you become the college & guidance counselor at Yongsan International School of Seoul?
This year marks my 16th year at YISS.  Coming right out of college, I was hired as a high school math teacher. I knew I wanted to work in education and I never really explored Korea myself, so I thought that it was a great opportunity right off the bat.  However, with my degree in psychology, I always had a passion for counseling. When the counseling position opened a few years later, I immediately jumped at it. However, being in East Asia, I quickly discovered that most forms of counseling centered around academic and college counseling rather than social and emotional counseling. That immediately became my focus.  Now, working exclusively with the upperclassmen the past few years, my title has changed to include the responsibilities of the college counselor at YISS.  I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

What is your favorite part of the job?
For most college counselors, the “I got in!” moment with a senior is pretty memorable.  I absolutely agree.  In addition to this part of the job, graduation is always an epic milestone as I love seeing families coming together to celebrate the commencement of their graduated senior. However, my favorite part of the job is when I get the opportunity to reconnect with our alumni, especially years after they graduated from YISS. It is always a question that so many of us educators ask, but when we finally get to see what our students have amounted to, it is a reminder that what we do is truly worth it. 

How does NACAC play a role in your career?
For me, much of my professionalism and knowledge that I have in this industry can be traced back to my involvement and membership in NACAC and my International ACAC affiliate.  Things have changed a bit since I’ve started college counseling, but back then, there weren’t any graduate programs that I knew of that could help train and equip me to do this job. For all intents and purposes, NACAC and International ACAC served as my “graduate school,” where I learned everything from the basics of advising to letters of recommendation to essay writing. Despite having a few years under my belt, I still learn a lot at every conference, draw from the extensive rolodex of its membership, and look for every opportunity to give back.   

Do you have any advice for professionals new to the field?
This might not be new advice, but I was fortunate enough to have a mentor when I first started in this field.  My first few years, I practically had him on speed dial as I initially had little to no idea what I was doing.  He isn’t just a valuable resource, but continues to be a lifelong friend.  There is so much to this industry that can be overwhelming, and though some of the answers might be available on this website, or in that publication, having a mentor to help guide me was simply priceless.  I know that this may not be readily available to every new professional, but be open to making those connections when they present themselves. That and attend the national conference. It simply rocks. 

You frequently help out your colleagues by hosting workshops and offering advice on Korean culture and Korean universities. What made you start offering these resources?
Originally, I was tasked to help our new faculty assimilate to Korea at the beginning of each school year.  This is when I started to research in greater depth about the Korean culture and how it plays such an integral part in this nation’s mindset and perspective on higher education.  It was only recently that a colleague of mine from Jakarta asked a small group of us to present to our affiliate on this very topic.  Seeing the value of this workshop on a larger scale, I am motivated and encouraged to continue to offer such a resource with greater depth and breadth. 

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing counselors today?Working overseas, the political climate and the matters of safety and security in the United States have been a heavy topic of concern.  Since last year, students and parents brought up their reservations about attending college in the States.  Current news certainly doesn’t alleviate any of their fears.  My biggest challenge is educating our students to seek the institution, the curriculum, and the environment that best supports their academic interests, while still being able to call their campus “home.”

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
My wife asked me a similar question shortly after we got married.  “What would you like to do if you had no fear of failure and no need of money?”  I quickly blurted out “DJ!”  My wife thought that was a silly dream that I had been pursuing since college. Once she realized that music is an important part of who I am, she surprised me with turntables the following Christmas.  So what do I like to do when I’m not working? I like to DJ. 

If you could be any fictional character, who would you be?
Nothing exciting or surprising here.  I graduated from the University of Michigan, so I am a Wolverine!

Is there anything else you would like to add?
Get involved.  Being a member of NACAC or your affiliate is totally awesome. But they also need people like you to help keep it awesome. NACAC has done so much for my career and for me. It has only felt natural to give back by getting involved.  With so many needs in so many different capacities, there is definitely a place for everyone. So whether you are a first-timer or a veteran, please get involved.  

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