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A second chance at a college degree for Mason Korea’s first female computer game design graduate


Juyoung Cha was the first in her family to consider studying abroad for college. Starting in high school, she wanted to experience a different culture, specifically the United States.

Juyoung Cha by the Mason Pond
Computer game design major Juyoung Cha by Mason Pond on the Fairfax Campus. Photo provided

After she faced closed doors to her fine arts college applications in Korea, her local pastor who had lived in the United States recommended that she take the community college route in the state of New York. Cha decided to study accounting, a pathway she considered to be more stable than fine arts in terms of career outcomes.

Cha spent three semesters at a community college and three semesters at the City University of New York. However, due to family financial difficulties, Cha and her sister returned home to continue their college education.

Coming back to Korea as a transfer student was a huge challenge for Cha, as Korean universities only accept transfer students who enrolled for more than two years at a single institution. With her six semesters at two institutions, she was limited in options for continuing her undergraduate education.

At the point where she was about to give up on her college education, her pastor’s wife introduced her to Kelley Chung, Mason Korea’s associate dean for admissions and government affairs, who helped Cha see that she could continue her fine arts pursuits through the field of computer game design at a U.S. institution in Korea.

“While it was not as abstract as plain fine arts and had a clear career route, the thought of building something in the digital world that cannot be constructed in the real world sounded exciting,” Cha said.

Learning computer programming, design, and game modeling was challenging for Cha. “As the days of being a college student prolonged, the goal of graduating felt farther away the more I got close to it,” she said.

Cha found that computer game design faculty members wanted to see her succeed, showing flexibility on deadlines and even offering the chance to retake classes for a better grade. Her internship supervisor at Mason Korea’s Office of Development and Strategic Partnerships, Christina Cha, was her biggest supporter when she was on the brink of dropping out of college.

“Juyoung’s diligence and willingness to learn new skills was impressive to me and to all of us in the office,” her internship supervisor said. “She was also an active member of G-nonymous, Mason Korea’s student RSO for [computer graphic design] majors, quietly yet persistently honing her skills. I’m so happy that she rose above her own doubts and decided to complete her education journey at Mason and become our alumnus!”

Now Cha is just weeks away from reaching the finish line in Fairfax—earning her BFA in computer game design. In May she plans to walk proudly across the graduation stage in EagleBank Arena along with her younger sister, Subin Cha, who is a Mason Korea student in accounting.

“Being the first five students among Mason Korea’s first computer game design cohort and one of the few female students in my major’s graduating class from Mason Korea, to me being a Patriot symbolizes endurance and patience,” said Cha. “Studying abroad in the United States and coming back to an American college through Mason were both non-traditional routes that exposed me to different challenges that allowed me to see the value of a college degree.”



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