Going West 5 Years StrongPosted on Monday, January 26th, 2015 at 3:04 pm.
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.
Categories: J-1 Visa, Program Spotlight
|About Karen Ward|
Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange
Karen Ward has been with the Department of State and the Exchange Visitor Program for over thirty years. Karen joined Private Sector Exchange as the Director of the Office of Private Sector Exchange Designation in December 2014. She previously had worked on all aspects of the Exchange Visitor Program, including program analyst for the secondary school student, teacher, post-secondary student, research scholar, trainee and intern categories and served as the Division Chief of the Private Sector Programs Division for three years. She spent three years as a Policy Analyst and a Senior Compliance Office within the Office of Exchange Coordination and Compliance. She has extensive knowledge on program management, the regulatory process, form development, and SEVIS administration.
Karen, a native of Maryland, is a career federal civil servant with more than 30 years of service, working mostly in the areas of international exchanges and operation management. She enjoys mentoring and volunteering in her community.
View more photos