KINGSTON, R.I. -- May 24, 2001 -- There will be no visits to the Eiffel Tower or trips to Stonehenge during Crystal Nelson and Michael Abbeys study abroad. While other college students will pack to spend time studying in traditional Western countries next year, Crystal Nelson, an undergraduate at the University of Rhode Island, will be packing her bags to spend a year at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa. Michael Abbey, a URI graduate student, will be heading to Korea to develop a proposal on regional security through environmental engagement. The trips are funded by the National Security Education Program Fellowships (NSEP).
The undergraduate and graduate fellowships fund student initiatives to study abroad in countries not commonly selected as destinations. NSEPs multiple objectives in funding these fellowships are: 1) to equip Americans with an understanding of less commonly taught languages, 2) build a critical base of future leaders and professionals who have cultivated international relationships who can help the United States make sound decisions and deal effectively with global issues, and 3) enhance institutional capacity and increase the number of faculty who can educate United States citizens about these goals. The fellowship requires participants to fulfill a service requirement with the United States government when they return.
Nelson, a sophomore English and political science major from Providence, says that she grew up watching apartheid in South Africa and South Africas transformation into a strong, democratic nation. She has also had a great interest in the different African cultures from the Youruba of Nigeria to the Zulu of the Southern African region, and the turbulent sociopolitical climates of the continent. During her year in Africa, Nelson will have a chance to study the nations and cultures firsthand and look at how literature has reflected and impacted the changing society.
"I am interested in how close social and political events are tied to Americas and how the literature of that society is so political without being dry. I want to look at how South Africans use literature to explore political relationships," explained Nelson.
While in South Africa, Nelson, who holds a 4.0 grade point average at URI, plans to study an advanced curriculum of African Politics and African Literature at the University of Stellenbosch, which is located approximately 30 minutes from Cape Town, an epicenter of cultural and artistic life in South Africa.
Because the fellowship is so language-intensive, Nelson had to prove a solid background in language study and plan an intensive study while in South Africa. An intermediate speaker of Spanish, a beginner speaker of Italian and a reader of French, Nelson will take 45 academic hours of instruction each semester in Afrikaans, and independently learn one of the other regional dialects.
Upon her return to the United States, she hopes to use what she has learned to complete her bachelors degree.
"What I learn can be used as a tool here in the United States in terms of race relations and improving communication. I plan to pursue a law degree and work for the Department of State or a private sector to use the experiences I gained to go into developing countries and be effective there," she said.
Abbey, a graduate student studying marine affairs and community planning from Kingston, will use his NSEP fellowship to develop a proposal detailing the trade in ocean resources between North and South Korea and the impact of trade on regional security and unification issues. Abbey explains that because of the scarcity of ocean resources in South Korea, the two Koreas have begun to engage on a more tangible level.
"North Korea hosts family reunions with South Korea which are great for the evening news, but nothing of substance is really going on. What I have proposed to study is more stable because it deals with money," said Abbey.
To develop the proposal, Abbey will spend a year in Korea working with Kyu Seok Park, former deputy minister of fisheries and a visiting scholar at the University of Rhode Island. Abbey will work with employees of the Ministries of Fisheries and Unification, fisheries cooperative officers, politicians, academics and leaders in both the South Korean and American Armed Forces.
"What I really like about this program is the intensive language study. Ive always loved languages and I know I can get more out of a language if I am travelling to that country. I figure that I will have a terrific package to sell since I know both a Latin American and an Asian language," said Abbey, who will study at Brown University before and after his year in Korea, and will attend Seoul National Language Institute while in the country.
When Abbey finishes his proposal, he will embark upon his service requirement and hopes to find an offer in a government research office where he can continue working on environmental and security issues.
"I love research, I really do. I finally feel vindicated for all those language classes I paid for. This affords me the opportunity to become a recognized and qualified researcher in the field. It is a foot in the door. Thats the benefit of the program: I have easier access to federal agencies at the federal level. Sixteen months of service to the government while being paid is an incredibly opportunity," said Abbey.
"I was only able to get this fellowship because of some people who helped me all along the way," added the URI graduate student. "I want to say thank you to Gerry Krausse, my major professor and chief motivator, Pam Rubinoff of the Coastal Resources Center, and Cheryl Foster. Shes been a great cheerleader."
For Information: Jan Sawyer, 401-874-2116, Jennifer Smith, 401-874-2116