Exchange Matters / June 6, 2024

Emerging Leader Highlights Exchange Opportunities from Iowa to Japan

By Abby Fowler, 2024 Emerging Leader

Abby (right) poses with friends wearing yukata, summer kimono, at a festival in Okayama City, Japan. Photo provided by author.

In the summer of 2023, I participated in the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) program in Japan. It was a transformative experience that not only improved my Japanese language skills, but also led to lasting friendships with people in both Japan and around the United States. Cultural immersion is critical when learning languages, and CLS is one of the few fully funded U.S. Government study abroad programs that makes immersive language learning more accessible. I want other young people, especially those in areas underrepresented on the global stage, like the Midwest, to be aware of these exchange opportunities. It was this conviction that inspired my Global Ties U.S. Emerging Leaders service project.

As the first part of my project, I published an article on the University of Iowa International Programs website explaining college-level U.S. government sponsored exchange programs. The article discusses each program, the benefits of participating, how to apply, and the resources available at my university for application assistance. It is an evergreen resource that the university intends to keep updated and promote throughout the year for the foreseeable future. Additionally, I hosted an in-person information session about U.S. Government-sponsored exchange programs, which covered most of the same content as the article but included a Q&A and stories of my personal experience participating in the CLS program. There are many amazing exchange opportunities offered by the U.S. Government. By compiling this information into one easily digestible package, these programs are much more approachable.

My opportunity to join the Global Ties U.S. Emerging Leaders program was brought about thanks to Global Ties Iowa, where I worked as the communications coordinator for three years while studying at the University of Iowa. Global Ties Iowa is unique because student staff and interns take charge of many major parts of operation, from programming to communications. Because of this, I came out of college with years of experience leading email marketing campaigns, designing and maintaining websites, and creating and executing social media strategies. Not many other 21-year-olds can say they have made such a profound impact on a nonprofit organization.

Three International Visitors from Japan pose with a cardboard cutout of University of Iowa mascot Herky the Hawk.

International Visitors from Japan pose with University of Iowa mascot Herky the Hawk following a meeting with the university admissions team. Photo from Amy-Alice Chastain of Global Ties Iowa.

The idea of a “global career” can sometimes feel so abstract and unattainable. This all changed when I began doing digital communications work with Global Ties Iowa. I would encourage any other young professionals pursuing a globally focused career to find their niche, just like I did. For example, you may already know the subject area of your career, but what do you want to do on a day-to-day basis? For me, the answer is digital marketing and communications. For others, this might be event programming, project management, research, or teaching. Once you’ve found this, it’s a lot easier to discover what steps you need to take to succeed.

Programs like the Emerging Leaders Program and Critical Language Scholarship provide invaluable opportunities to build global competencies, demonstrate proficiencies to future employers, and connect young leaders to networks of professionals in their desired field. In many ways, I see Global Ties Iowa as having shaped my entire future. Global Ties Iowa provided me with three years of hands-on learning and helped me to make a strong case for being a citizen diplomat in my CLS application. Additionally, as an alumna of CLS, I was given special hiring authority for federal jobs, which made me eligible for a social media manager position at the U.S. Department of State. My digital communications experience at Global Ties Iowa allowed me to demonstrate my abilities during the job interview, and I am pleased to share that I have been tentatively selected for the job.

As for what’s next, I have an exciting few months ahead of me. This summer, I am off to Tokyo, Japan, where I will do a six-week internship with Tokyo Broadcasting System’s (TBS) Global Business Division. After my internship, I will travel around South Korea and Japan before (tentatively) moving to Washington, DC, to join the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation as a Public Affairs Specialist. I am incredibly thankful for everything that the Emerging Leaders Program and the Global Ties Network have done for me along my career journey!