Junior Amya Mebane has been named a recipient of a World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh Global Travel Scholarship. Amya completed a written application and face-to-face interview as part of the selection process. In her acceptance letter from Annie M. Prucey, Vice President for Global Education, Ms. Prucey stated, “You impressed the Selection Committee in what was a highly competitive selection process. You are joining a highly select group of students, and as such, you have a special responsibility to be an outstanding ambassador for the Council, as well as for The Experiment in International Living. We are committed to building this program and to expanding this opportunity to the young leaders who will follow you and we will need your help to achieve this goal. We are fully confident that you will excel in this important role. We are so proud that you will represent the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh, your school, and this region, as a Global Travel Scholar. We look forward to working with you as you prepare for what will no doubt be a life-changing experience!”
The one surprise for Amya, a German language student of Frau Zollars, was that she she would be heading to South Korea for a month-long stay in the council’s Peacebuilding & Contemporary Culture travel program offered through The Experiment in International Living program.
“Frau Zollars showed me the program,” Amya said. “Even though it wasn't a Global Scholars program, she wanted me to try it out. I didn't hear back from them on the day they set for announcing acceptance and didn’t think I made it. I finally heard back from them a week later and they told me that I was accepted, but not for my first choice Germany, but South Korea.”
At the time she was notified of her acceptance, tensions were running high in the Korean Peninsula. “My mom was very freaked out about it and wasn't sure she wanted me to go,” Amya said. “I was concerned about going over there, too. But it's also something I am interested in. The theme of the trip is Peacemaking in Contemporary Culture, about how we can learn from them and they can learn from us. I'm hoping to get a better understanding of Korea and their culture. I know nothing about Korea right now and I want to know more. I want to learn about the people, what they do, how their cities and communities function. So, going over there is a great opportunity for me to learn that, bring it back and apply it to my own life and interactions within my community.”
The visiting students will stay in a hostel during the first week and undergo an intensive introduction to the language. “We'll learn all the basics so we should be able to get by for the rest of the trip,” she said. “Many of the host families know some English, but are not necessarily fluent, maybe just enough to get by. The second week we'll be placed with a family for two weeks. And the last week we'll stay at a temple and practice meditation with monks and take nature hikes. That way we get an overall appreciation for for the culture of the city in which we stay.”
Despite that initial bit of apprehension, Amya said she is very much looking forward to her first trip out of the country and her longest stay away from home. “I am very excited. I'm still in that state of mind where people are saying ‘Wow, you're going Korea’ and I'm just like, yeah, I am. I feel like when it gets closer to the trip I'll be like, oh man, I'm actually leaving the country.”