Posted On April 15, 2016 By In Korean With 1270 Views

NSLI-Y Alumni and Diplomat in Residence attend National Society of High School Scholars Annual Meeting

“Language proficiency can help your studies across a range of majors you may be considering for college. It’s an experience that goes beyond the tourist perspective and really builds the foundation for a lifelong commitment to the language and culture.” – Nicole Don, NSLI-Y Alumna

by Gedaliah Dreyfus, Korea Year, 2013-2014

On March 12, 2016, NSLI-Y alumni, Nicole Don (Turkey Summer) and Gedaliah Dreyfuss (Korea Academic Year) and South Florida’s Diplomat-in-Residence, Ms. Catherine Rodriguez, met at the National Society of High School Scholars’ annual member conference at Florida International University to represent State Department careers and youth exchange programs. Over 350 students attended the meeting to accept awards recognizing their academic achievement and involvement with their communities.

It was the first time for both alumni to represent the State Department, and they agreed that what brought them to the event was a sense of duty and responsibility to give back to the Department whose programs they had participated in.

Catherine Rodriguez speaking at FIU.  U.S. Department of State holds a booth at FIU to promote the study of International Relations in college.

Don, now pursuing her degree in International Relations and Near East Studies, reflected on her time in the program saying,

It was the first time I was able to give something back to the program and share my experience with others in a larger capacity. NSLI-Y gave me a passion and connection to Turkey, whose language and culture I would not have encountered otherwise. It was exciting to speak both with students who had previous studies in, say, Korea, and with students up for learning a language completely new to them.”

She encouraged students to look into the programs offered by the State Department. Don emphasizes “how immersive and unique an opportunity [the NSLI-Y program] is.” She continues,

Language proficiency can help your studies across a range of majors you may be considering for college. It’s an experience that goes beyond the tourist perspective and really builds the foundation for a lifelong commitment to the language and culture. My advice would be to demonstrate your passion and commitment in following through with your language study, and your openness and flexibility toward new situations.”

Gedaliah said the event allowed for the opportunity to encourage students who were in a similar position as he was years ago to apply. He appreciated, too, meeting with Ms. Rodriguez. He recalled her speech to the high schoolers as, “Personable, but also informative and direct; it is what made our table such a success.”

Currently pursuing a degree in Geography and Geomatics, but with a strong interest in public diplomacy, he reflected on how his time in Korea was both relevant and practical, “enabling a more comprehensive understanding of the world’s peoples, languages, cultures and lifestyles.” Though not directly involved in the scene, he also fielded questions from students wanting to know more about the K-pop in Seoul, describing his experience in Korea as being multifaceted,

Each program offers a chance to hone skills in language and cross-cultural understanding. Outside each program’s specific aim, there are opportunities to become personally engaged with whatever your interests are, be them engineering or entertainment, music or medicine, drawing or diplomacy.

Picture of the U.S. Department of State booth and posterAfter the program finished, Gedaliah, Nicole and Ms. Rodriguez rolled up the State Department careers poster, put away the NSLI-Y, YES-Abroad and CBYX brochures and stored the table until next time. Additionally, to discover more about State Department exchange and about the experiences of past participants, visit exchanges.state.gov. If the crowds forming around the State Department’s table and desire of alumni to become more involved are any indication, there will be plenty of bright, motivated faces in the Department of State in the future.

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