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Chaerin Kwon, Co-President of AHCSSA and Head of Finance for Fridge Door Gallery

If you are ever in the Arts building, watch out for this cool chica either climbing those dreadful stairs up to the Art History department or hanging out by the cafe, grabbing her daily dose of caffeine to keep up with her amazing work ethic. She is Chaerin Kwon, a dedicated Art History Honours student in her fourth year, with a minor in French. Although she was born in Korea, she grew up on the west coast and came to Montreal to attend McGill like many of us. She has the chillness of a west coaster and the strong, efficient drive of an east coaster in her busy life; a perfect balance that I must say I (as a west coaster) envy. Read on to find out how she does it!

Belle Kim for HC McGill: So let’s start with your involvement in AHCSSA (Art History Communication Studies Student Association). How long have you been involved in AHCSSA?

I was involved last year as a VP external in my first year with AHCSSA. There was an application process for the opening for Co-President so I applied. 

HC McGill: What was the process? 

It was based on performance and commitment that you’ve done and put in throughout the whole year. The application involved writing out your goals and a summary of what you have contributed to the executive team, but there wasn’t a formal interview.

HC McGill: Can you tell us about those goals?

My goals were to focus on providing more opportunities for art history students to use their degree, and also opportunities for students to get more involved in the department socially and academically. For example, previously, students mainly got involved by submitting in the journal, or through wine and cheese events, but those events aren’t offered enough and are limited. We wanted to run workshops this year that students could participate in. We also had a call out for photographers. We are also expanding our journal to have an online platform as well – to make it more active so more people can be involved in the online publication and to be able to use what they are learning in Art History. In terms of social events, we want to provide more networking events especially with grad students, movie screenings, wine and cheese-type of more practical approaches to help students plan ahead while getting to know each other. It’s a small enough department for people where they can benefit from getting to know each other. 

HC McGill: It’s been a month – have you been able to accomplish some of these goals or are about to?

Yes, we have had our movie screening so far. Grad school info session is coming up this month. We also have merchandise to sell – hats, sweaters, and t-shirts. There is also a Linkedin photoshoot coming up this month; we are providing free head-shots for Art History students. 

HC McGill: What are you most excited for? 

Probably the large events since they are most time consuming like the grad or speaker panel – those ones take a lot of time – inviting speakers ahead of time, arranging traveling time. I’m also very excited about what we might be planning this year (I don’t want to give too much away at the moment). We are aiming to having more platforms where students can present their research in more professional ways, and also for students to get to know each other better. 

HC McGill: Tell me about your position as a head of finance for FDG.

Well, I am continuing my position from last year. The main duty is to maintain the budget and a good financial standing and to acquire sponsorships. We run two exhibitions and they require quite a lot of funding. We also just launched a merchandise sale.

HC McGill: How has your final year been so far? 

It’s been really good so far, because I was initially going to graduate in Fall semester by taking 5 courses, but I spread it out so it would give me time to focus on work and my academics. I am able to work without losing focus of my academics, so it’s given me a better grasp of what I wanted to do without burning out.

HC McGill: Oh wow, you work in between as well. Where do you work?

I have a new job as an assistant at the visual arts collection at McGill. It’s an office inside McLennan that manages all the artwork around campus like those public sculptures and paintings you see on campus or in offices. 

HC McGill: So how do you do/deal with it all?

The two extracurriculars are what I’m already familiar with so the commitment is not as bad and I work only 10 hours a week. Honours isn’t so bad either since 1 lecture is worth 6 credits. I nap whenever I can. Stress eating, blasting good music, drinking so much coffee. But what I’ve learned is that the only way to not be stressed was to get the work done – so I try to get things done, while eating spicy and savoury food (it helps!). 

HC McGill: What has been your best memory at McGill? 

Probably my first year and this year. In first year, I was so excited to go out and explore the city. And I was so optimistic first year (laughs), since graduation seemed so far away. There was also the sense that in rez all of us were in it together. This year I feel like I have improved myself. I’ve learned a lot from my second and third year and now I feel like I’ve wrapped things up. I’ve adopted more good habits. 

HC McGill: What are your new ‘good’ habits?

Sleeping at regular times, exercising, focusing on a task more efficiently than I used to. And not spending money on useless things. 

HC McGill: Where do you see yourself after graduation? 

I’m planning to take a year off in order to prepare for grad school in Art History. I want the year to polish up my application and also to gain some infield, hands-on work experience which could also help me think about what I want to do in my career and what I want to pursue in research in grad school. I’m probably going to look for contract jobs related to my degree and earn some money to do some travelling hopefully. Technically I’ll be unemployed. I don’t know where I’ll be and I won’t be a student anymore – I’ll have to really fend for myself completely. But I really want to do a lot of catching up with family, old hobbies, friends. Things I couldn’t do at McGill. But I guess I’m also catching up on assignments now (laughs).

 

Images provided by interviewee.

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