“Finding the value of a global outlook” – U.S. Participant Spotlight

American participants visiting the Namsangol Hanok Village in downtown Seoul.


For the past 21 years, Meridian International Center has successfully implemented the U.S. Congress – Republic of Korea National Assembly Exchange, a unique program jointly funded by the U.S. Department of State and the Republic of Korea National Assembly through its Committee on Foreign Affairs and Unification. The program brings together 20 young people from the United States and the Republic of Korea for a memorable opportunity to promote cultural awareness and political understanding between the two countries.

Following below is a blog by one of the U.S. participants in the program, Nasya Blackwell, written at the conclusion of the program in which she shares her impressions of Korea and of the program, her experiences and the lessons learned along the way. Nasya, a native of North Carolina, is currently Senior at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University where is she is studying Political Science and English with a minor in Spanish. Nasya was nominated for this program by Congressman Mark Walker who represents North Carolina’s 6th Congressional District.

“I am not sure the moment I realized how blessed I was to get chosen for this opportunity. When I left my university in May I had many disappointments. One included not having a summer internship or program that I really wanted. After many rejections for internships and programs, I just knew it was over for me. Receiving this acceptance changed my outlook on the summer and of my future career, but Korea truly changed my life.

Nasya wearing Hanbok in Gwanghwamun Square, Seoul.

I wish I could say that before the trip I was an expert in U.S. and Korea relations and I could speak fluent Korean. However, the program forced me to step out of my comfort zone and immerse myself in the rich culture Korea posses.

After seeing the city of Seoul, I realized no place I have visited compared to the pure magic of the city. Instantly, I found the value of a global outlook. I begin to see far beyond what was in front in me and enhanced my chances to succeed in a global society.

American participants pictured while visiting the Library of the National Assembly and learning about the Dokdo Islands. nasya is pictured here wearing yellow.

Having a delegation of Americans and Koreans made my time even more memorable. Sharing the experience with people who hold similar interest as you and the want to see you succeed makes you realize that happiness comes in enjoying the happiness of others.

A highlight of the program included our travel to North Korea to meet with members of City Council, Deputy Mayors, and attending meetings at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The American participants in the program as they are about to enter the Gangneung City Hall for a meeting with the city’s Deputy Mayor. Gangneung was one of the host city of the 2018 Winter Olympics.

My Korean Counterpart was Ms. Chaeryung Sohn and I am so lucky to not only share my experience with her but gain a friend for life. Meeting her showed me the value of Korean culture, family, and following your dreams. Her family welcomed me with open arms and made me feel like apart of the family. This meant the most to me especially from the stares, I received everyday. Being the only HBCU student chosen as a delegate this year, the experience opened my eyes about the importance of representing my country and sharing the beauty of my culture abroad. I only hope my journey will open doors for and/or inspire students to participate in this life changing program. I hope to increase the want of African American students to travel and study abroad. Seeing the amount of joint relations that the two governments possess, I think it is only right that both of our nations and cultures are exposed to one another.”

Nasya with Chaeryung’s family.