On March 12, 2018, I was officially accepted as a finalist for the AFS implemented & U.S. State Department-funded Kennedy-Lugar YES Abroad scholarship in the 2018-19 year to Thailand!
Throughout high school, like many of my peers, I was attempting a nonstop and impossible balancing act of AP classes, extracurriculars, family, friends, and staying physically & mentally healthy. At times, I felt unfulfilled and trapped by the routine of traditional high school and found motivation to get through classes exclusively from like-minded people, who were few and far between.
Because my mum is a British immigrant, my family has always been international and strongly values travelling and understanding other cultures. My parents, my brother, and I take an annual summer trip of about three weeks to Europe (typically England and France) to visit the rest of our family. During our 2017 trip, I had extensive conversations with my aunts, uncles, and cousins about their careers in linguistics and the experiences they’ve had while travelling. I was thoroughly fascinated by the opportunities their language skills gave them and the events abroad that shaped them into such compassionate and understanding people. I left determined to work as hard as I could to eventually be in the same position.
School began again and I fell right back into my old cycle. However, I had one class that never failed to spark my interest. My incredible teacher of two years (Western Civilization and AP European History), Mrs. Nickelson, strongly encouraged studying abroad at some point and was happy to discuss her personal travels. Her classes, centered around international culture and history, taught me applicable lessons that made me impatient to just take off and be active in society on a larger scale. (She also wrote my letter of recommendation, which I will always be grateful for!) With her support and my curiosity, I began to research the prospect of graduating early, going to boarding schools, or interesting summer programs.
I eventually discovered the U.S. State Department-funded scholarships in October. I was immediately compelled by the perfect mix of everything I was looking for in my life—a mission that aligned perfectly with my core values, an entire community of like-minded friends (most of which being my age!), and the chance for the unexpected and challenging adventure of a lifetime. I eagerly began filling out my applications to NSLI-Y and YES, thinking it was too good to ever be true for me, and submitted them in December.
I became extremely disheartened after I was notified that I was not selected as a semifinalist in the NSLI-Y program. I had also followed through with some of the other possibilities like boarding school or summer programs, but the expensive cost outweighed the benefits. I sadly gave up on my dreams of leaving my state for junior year, thinking if I didn’t get into one scholarship program, then I certainly wouldn’t get into the other. I was so devastated that I almost didn’t attend my interview for YES to avoid another rejection. What an enormous mistake that would’ve been!
My interview went surprisingly AMAZING! I connected with my interviewer, Moritz, almost instantly over the questions and hearing about his experiences as an AFS alumnus. I left happy and hopeful again, thinking that, at the very least, I had a lovely conversation that provided me with insight into the realities of studying abroad.
I will probably post a more in-depth look at the application process later but any hopeful applicants can feel free to contact me for advice or with any questions!
March 12th, 2018, was an unusual but fun day. I attended a small field trip downtown to see some Shakespeare performances, which kept me busy all day. I learned from the only study abroad Facebook group that I was in that people began getting their notifications from YES Abroad. However, the majority of people were posting about how they received alternate or got rejected, sometimes for the second or third time. I checked my email semi-frequently to no avail due to my poor internet connection downtown. I eventually dismissed it, thinking that if I had been given finalist status, I would already know. I enjoyed my day and came home at 3:30 pm to find my mum sitting on the couch, looking very serious. I immediately knew something monumental had happened because my mum gets home at 6—if she’s early. I actually started getting anxious, thinking of what I could’ve possibly done to get in trouble and praying nobody got hurt. She gave me the surprise of my life! I can’t express the happiness and gratitude I felt at that moment in words so here’s the video! (555 I’m an ugly crier but it was a BIG moment.)
I am so excited to share my experiences in Thailand & beyond and I hope I can post regularly! Thank you so much for reading.