Case Western Reserve University junior Hannah Cha has been selected as a Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellow by the United States Department of State. Cha was among 20 students selected from over 1,000 applicants.
"It's really incredible," said the economics and political science major from Highland Heights. "I'm very grateful for this opportunity."
As a Pickering Fellow, Cha will receive tuition, board and book reimbursement for her remaining two years of undergraduate work, as well as her first year of graduate school. The grant also includes living and travel stipends during the three-year time period. In addition, she will have an orientation in Washington, D.C., two summer internships - one domestic and one abroad - with the U.S. Department of State and guidance from a Foreign Service Officer mentor during her graduate studies.
Following completion of her master's degree, Cha will enter into a commitment as a Foreign Service officer. She'll be able to select her top preference from a listing of openings, but the final decision lies with the State Department.
Typically, officers tend to spend between two and four years in other countries before transferring to different parts of the world. The initial commitment is for four and a half years.
"I've always enjoyed traveling and the Foreign Service lifestyle really appeals to me," she said. "I like the idea of being able to spend time in one place long enough to become acclimated to the culture and the community, but then have the opportunity to do it again somewhere else and learn about a new culture. I know the initial commitment is for four and a half years, but I think mine will likely be longer."
Cha is leaning towards the area of public affairs, working with governing bodies, media, citizens and organizations to understand United States foreign policy. "I want to do something that gets me involved with the people of that country and immersed in the culture, not just working in an office at the embassy," she added.
Cha applied for the fellowship after searching online for information about foreign service. Her initial application included forms and letters of recommendation, as well as essays. In April, she and 40 other finalist were flown to the nation's capitol for all-day interviews and exams, similar to what trained Foreign Service officers experience.
The exams focused on basic understanding of current events and writing skills.
"Keeping up on current events and what is going on around the world is something that I've always done on my own," Cha noted.
In preparation for her future global travels, Cha is spending the Spring 2008 semester study abroad in London. When she returns stateside, she'll head to Washington for the Junior Summer Institute, a program that offers all Pickering Fellows a basic foundation and understanding of their roles.
Created in 1992 and funded by the Department of State and administered by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, the Pickering Fellowship is named in honor of Thomas R. Pickering, one of the most distinguished American diplomats. He held the rank of Career Ambassador, the highest rank in the U.S. Foreign Service. He served as ambassador to Nigeria, El Salvador, Israel, India and the Russian Federation. He concluded his career as Under Secretary of State3 for Political Affairs under President Bill Clinton.
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