By Lynette Evans-Tiernan
International internships are on the rise. Foreign governments are interested in equipping their youth with enhanced English language proficiency, on-the-job training and an understanding of the U.S. marketplace. The Department’s Work, English Study, Travel Program (WEST) is a people-to-people exchange that meets these objectives, preparing future leaders to extend a free and prosperous world.
Established in 2008, WEST offers qualifying university students and recent graduates from the Republic of Korea the opportunity to study English in a structured setting, participate in career-based internships and travel in the United States. Participants, informally called WESTies, gain tangible skills and a better understanding of the United States. To date, more than 3,500 Korean youths have participated in WEST.
Last October, in Seoul, Ambassador to the Republic of Korea Harry Harris and Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-hwa renewed the memorandum of understanding governing the program.
At the ceremony, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-hwa noted that a WESTie had once remarked that WEST was “a journey to discover the path that I want to take, not the one that I am obliged to take.” Kang went on to say that alumni felt the program boosted their confidence. It helped them build their capabilities and gave them an opportunity to challenge themselves in a new environment.
WEST’s legacy is in the lasting relationships and mutual understanding formed between WESTies and the Americans they meet throughout the course of their programs. At the ceremony, Harris noted that, “As WESTies study, work and travel throughout the United States, they become citizen ambassadors of Korea, establishing long-lasting bonds of friendship and mutual respect with Americans.”
Lynette Evans-Tiernan is a public affairs officer for the Exchange Visitor Program.