The following article highlighting NSLI-Y student Brady, NSLI-Y Korea, Academic Year 2014 – 2015 was written by Colleen Williamson of the Parsons Sun.
Besides graduating as valedictorian in May, Brady will spend a year in Korea as an exchange student and will then return to attend one of the top liberal arts colleges in the U.S.
Returning from a trip to Pomona College in California, where he was accepted on full scholarship, Brady said, “It was as good as I thought it was and probably even better.”
Brady has been active in high school, serving as a drum major for two years, participating on the varsity swim team and earning a place in the state competition the past two years. He has participated in forensics and debate, is a member of the National Honor Society and is vice president of the Library Club. As well, he volunteers at the PALS animal shelter.
Throughout high school, he knew he wanted a liberal arts undergraduate degree, because it is common for students to change their majors several times before settling on one to pursue for a career. Having that in mind, he began exploring options.
“Pomona is one of the top liberal arts colleges in the nation. They have small class sizes and it’s next to L.A. for internship possibilities … and the weather is a positive, too. They are completely need-blind (do not consider applicant’s financial situation when deciding admission). They are pretty selective and they want to make sure a student can afford to go there if they want to go,” he said.
One thing he liked during his visit is that all the students are exceptional, so it is not a focus of discussions. Twenty-six percent of the students were valedictorians, 8 percent were salutatorians and the rest were in the top 30 percent of their class, with many being in the top 10 percent, he said.
Regarding his major area of study, Brady said, “I’m looking at linguistics and cognitive sciences, but I have not completely decided yet.”
No one was home when he received the large package in the mail from Pomona College that held his acceptance letter. When his parents, Bradley and Nichole, heard the news, they were excited for their son.
“I don’t think they have fully adjusted to the idea of me being that far away, though,” he said.
Not long after that, Brady received his letter of acceptance into an exchange program that would let him go to Korea for a year to study the language abroad.
His interest in the foreign exchange programs was piqued during his sophomore year when Brady became acquainted with a foreign exchange student at PHS who joined the swim team.
“I talked to him about the exchange program he was in and told him I wished we had an exchange program like that in the U.S. The next day he brought me a big stack of papers that explained everything. I didn’t try to go through that exchange program because you have to pay to go through them, but it helped me find programs that are funded through the Department of State,” he said. “There are quite a few steps to the application process. I started by filling out a fairly long application. Several essays make up a lot of it. Then you have to have a recommendation letter from a teacher and a parent. Once you make it to the semi-finals, they schedule an interview with one of the people that helps fund the program, then they will write a letter of recommendation. Then you have to go through filling out all the medical forms and getting a passport.”
Through the program Brady selected, the country he would go to would be based on the language he wanted to learn. If someone chooses Chinese, there are several countries they could go to, but he chose Korean, and South Korea is the only place the language is spoken.
“They don’t offer exchange programs to places where the languages are commonly taught in school,” Brady said. “I studied French in school, but I like a lot of different languages. I enjoy languages that sound nice or have a historical or cultural significance. Korean was the only language commissioned by a king so it could be written by the common people because of its simple structure. I learned to read it in about four hours because its structure is simple and follows a really simple pattern.”
As for linguistics, he said, “The part of it I really enjoy is learning about and experiencing languages and culture.”
Living in either Seoul or Incheon for a year, Brady will have the chance to experience both. He will live with families there and five days a week attend a Korean high school learning the Korean language and taking elective courses. Then three days a week he will attend a university in Seoul to study the language more intensely. As well, he will commit time to community service and community engagement during winter break.
Despite the letters of confirmation he has received, Brady said it is difficult for him to believe the goals he set his sights on have become reality.
“I don’t think I have completely accepted the fact of what’s going on. The last few years I’ve been set on Pomona and had the dream of doing both,” he said. “I wasn’t sure if I would get accepted into either one. I was hoping I would at least get one or the other. I am very happy with the way things turned out.”
Brady said he wants other students to be aware of the many opportunities that are available to students for both college and study abroad opportunities.
There are many of the “harder to get into” schools that have people who contribute a lot of money to provide scholarships for students who cannot afford to attend, if the students are willing to work hard to apply, he said.
“There is always a chance it can work out,” Brady said. “And I want to get the word out about these kinds of exchange programs. This program I am in is fully funded, so it’s affordable if you want a cultural exchange opportunity, and you can apply every year.”