Globetrotting Chester native travels the world through a series of scholarships

You may have seen articles in the Village News over the last several years about Chester native, Wyatt Gordon.  He graduated from Thomas Dale in 2008, and in December he completed his studies at American University’s School of International Service in Washington, D.C.  With a BA in International Studies and a minor in German, Wyatt graduated from the Honors program Summa Cum Laude with a GPA of 3.97.  As a recipient of multiple scholarships, including the Boren, Critical Language and International Parliamentary Scholarship (IPS), Gordon has spent just five semesters on AU’s campus and the rest of his undergraduate years around the world.

“To speak a different language, to be able to see the world differently – I think it really enriches life,” says Gordon, who is certified to translate in German, fluent in Indonesian; proficient in Spanish; and can speak basic French.  These language skills have come in handy, as with each scholarship, Gordon takes advantage of the opportunities to travel and has now been to around 30 countries.

Gordon’s international interest began as a high school student studying Spanish and French.  After graduation, he spent a year in Germany through the Congress-Bundestag scholarship to better understand his familial roots. His father, who passed away when he was a child, was of German decent, and Gordon’s cultural exchange was a way to connect with his heritage.  “It was a way to explore my past but also discover my future,” Gordon says. “I wanted to really see what my heritage was like, to figure out where I was coming from, to figure out where I really wanted to go.  After that, I really started thinking more internationally.”

Upon returning to the United States and beginning his undergraduate education at AU, Gordon’s next adventure was inspired in part by one of his university classes. While studying Indonesia, Gordon became enthralled with learning more about the country.   “The more I read about it, the less I seemed to understand … I could not fit it with any of the frameworks the U.S. or Germany had given me to understand the world,” he says.

Determined to master Indonesian, Gordon began attending free language courses at the Indonesian Embassy and teaching himself the language through books and podcasts. His extra efforts were rewarded with a Critical Language Scholarship to study in Malang, East Java, for two months in summer 2010, where he achieved upper-level intermediate proficiency in the language.  “I just fell in love,” Gordon says. “It’s a beautiful and completely crazy country at the same time... [Java has] 140 million people, so you can’t go anywhere alone.”

Gordon’s Critical Language Scholarship experience propelled him to apply for a Boren Scholarship to return to Indonesia. After six months of preparation, essay writing, and collaboration with professor mentors, Gordon sent in his application – and received the award, which allowed him to spend his 2011-2012 year abroad.  “It was just really, really valuable, because I experienced so much more and I talked to so many people, that I now really understand the region; I really understand Indonesia,” Gordon says.

The Indonesian experience also allowed Gordon to land an internship with the US-Indonesian Society during his final semester at AU.  Wyatt is currently working in Washington, DC with this non-profit organization, which fosters and furthers the relationship between the US and Indonesia.

Recently, Gordon decided on a direction that would take him full-circle – an International Parliamentary Scholarship (IPS) back to Germany.  IPS recipients spend three months working in the Bundestag, the country’s legislative body, and two months studying at Humboldt University of Berlin. Going back to his interest in Germany, Gordon says, just felt right.  He leaves for Berlin at the end of February.

“When you have success at one scholarship, it gives you a sense of, ‘Oh, I can apply for this, I can apply for something else,’” Gordon says.  He is already thinking about what he’ll do when he returns to the United States.

In the long run, however, Gordon knows that Indonesia is calling.  “Indonesia is such an important place … by 2030, it will be the seventh-largest economy in the world, and it’s the biggest player in southeast Asia, a huge player in Asia,” Gordon says. “I just feel like Indonesia is so underappreciated, that’s where I need to be.”

Courtesy of the Boren Scholarship Broshure.

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