As we showed in my last post, J-1 exchanges play an important role in building good will and strengthening important bilateral relationships. The United States and the Republic of Korea, two strong allies, have had an international exchange partnership since 2008 through Korea WEST (Work, English, Study, and Travel). Through a system of recruitment in Korea and implementation in the United States, the WEST program offers Korean university students English language training and professional internships through J-1 designated sponsors. In the spirit of reciprocity, American students participate in internships in Korea through the Korean Working Holiday Program.
During my trip to Korea last month, I realized that working together across governments toward a common goal – through successful exchanges for Americans and Koreans – has enabled a strong bond between the two governments as we cooperate on WEST.
While the exchange experience itself is exciting, educational, and enriching, our ultimate goal is to build long-term relationships with our participants through alumni networking. While in Korea, I attended a gala event commemorating the 5th anniversary of WEST organized by the U.S. Embassy in Seoul and the Korean Ministry of Education. That event served to kick off the brand new WEST Alumni Network. The audience included over 300 Korean WEST alumni who gathered together to celebrate the positive impact WEST has had on their lives. One of the keynote speakers, Eun Joo, described her tough childhood and credited her U.S. exchange experience with changing everything in her life, including paving the way to her new job with Hyundai Heavy Industries.
The Korean Government is committed to diversity in the program and provides scholarships for some participants to make sure that this kind of professional development opportunity is available to all.
Throughout the evening, I met and spoke with fascinating WEST alumni who each shared how the program empowered them with invaluable language skills, cross-cultural competence, and professional experience that would help them progress in achieving their academic and career aspirations.
I am confident that the WEST program will continue to foster the next generation of Korean leaders who will help bring about even greater bilateral cooperation, global peace, and stability in the future.
|About Rebecca Pasini|
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange
Rebecca A. Pasini joined the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchanges in July 2023. A career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister - Counselor, Ms. Pasini has been an American diplomat since 1997.
Ms. Pasini previously served as the Director of Public and Congressional Affairs in the Bureau of Consular Affairs from 2021-2023. Other Washington assignments have included positions in the Bureau of Consular Affairs, the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, the Office of Foreign Missions, and as a liaison to the Department of Homeland Security. She has also completed multiple overseas tours, including as Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs in Islamabad, Pakistan, and as the Consular Chief in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Belfast, Northern Ireland. Other tours included Mexico City and Kuwait.
A Maryland native, Ms. Pasini has a Ph.D. in Political Science from Indiana University, a master’s degree in National Security and Resource Strategy from the Eisenhower School, National Defense University, and an undergraduate degree from Mary Washington College.
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