Senior Spotlight: Lillian Korinek

Lillian Korinek applied to colleges while studying as a Rotary Youth Exchange Student in Zhunan, Taiwan. “My host family was such a big influence in my decision to stay in Asia for my undergraduate,” she said, recalling that period of her life. “NYU Shanghai, like so many good things in my life, was just one of those things that I fell into. It fit perfectly. It just made sense.”

Admitted Students’ Weekend gave Korinek a quick glimpse into life at NYU Shanghai. “I met a lot of people I consider really good friends now. It felt like the beginning of the rest of my life. Maybe that’s a dramatic statement or a cliche even but, looking back at that weekend, I realize it was a significant transition into something very new.”

Starting life as a freshman at NYU Shanghai was an adjustment for Korinek, despite having lived in Taiwan. “The culture of the school was certainly something I had to get used to,” she admitted. “It was the culture of the school, feeling dumb because school was so hard. “People approach different subjects with varying levels of expertise and talent, and that level of experience can dramatically affect one’s performance in the classroom,” she explained. “Freshman year taught me that I needed to work harder in some courses, especially Calculus, in order to receive the same grade as some of my fellow classmates. Initially, that was a hard pill to swallow,” she recalled.

“Anna Greenspan, an Interactive Media Art’s professor at NYU Shanghai, recently told me to ‘stop trying to teach the world things and starting letting the world teach you,’ she explained, commenting on important lessons she has drawn from the NYU Shanghai experience.  

As a junior, Korinek travelled to Ethiopia and Kenya with a small specialty coffee roasting company based in Jing’an, Shanghai. “It was a small roasting company trying to sell to different hotels in Shanghai and maintain relationships. I realized just how much they were selling this coffee for compared to how much it cost to buy,” Korinek said. The purpose of the trip was to focus on coffee sourcing, the team visited prominent coffee farms and observed the different methods of coffee processing. “It made me look at the different ways coffee was produced from the initial coffee cherry to the roasted bean, or the final product. I started to understand how supply chains affect overall profits for individual farmers. The experience really stemmed my interest in trade.”

In the Spring of 2017, Korinek enrolled in the course, Stern International Volunteers, a class focusing on the creation and execution of a social enterprise in Volta, Ghana. “Initially, I was hesitant,” Korinek recalled, “there are so many ethical issues surrounding ecotourism and foreign investment in African countries in general, I wasn’t sure what the course would entail.” NYU’s Stern School of Business partnered with Adanu, a Ghanaian-based nonprofit, to organize a week long trip to Volta, Ghana to meet with the community and observe the ongoing happenings of the business.  It was during this trip that Korinek and a few other members of the class decided to return for the summer.“ I was there for just a week, but then my friend Maggie and I went back over the summer and lived there for seven weeks.”

Korinek spent her summer developing Amenueve, a batik textile brand, as well as working with the local school to improve IT curriculum and teacher training. Korinek realized the important role education plays in economic development, “it is part of every step in the process, education is necessary and unfortunately, often overlooked.”

Following her experience in Ghana, Korinek studied abroad in Washington D.C, interning in the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education Technology, as well as waitressing part-time at Momofuku CCDC. “I realized there are development issues everywhere,” Korinek said. Many of her co-workers at Momofuku were part-time students working and living in D.C. They were able to illustrate how drastically D.C. has changed in the last couple of years due to gentrification.

“If I had stayed in the US, I would’ve been so much more closed minded regarding how interconnected we all are, especially in regards to economic issues,” Korinek said. “My experience being part of the global-network has taught me the importance of listening. To sit back and really ‘let the world teach you.’

This article was written by Allison Chesky. Please send an email to to get in touch.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Lillian Korinek

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