“I enjoy hearing about these applicants’ hopes, dreams, and motivations.” – Ms. Sherie Day, Volunteer
Born and raised in Germany, Ms. Sherie Day fell in love with traveling and learning foreign languages at a young age. Today, she embraces the role that international education and academic exchange play in bettering societies throughout the world, and has committed her own energy and time to supporting this global effort. Ms. Day volunteers to evaluate applications for several international youth scholarship exchange programs funded by the U.S. Department of State and administered by American Councils for International Education.
Evaluation is a critical process that involves reading through thousands of student applications submitted by secondary school students from all over the world (including the U.S.) to participate in highly competitive exchange programs in both the U.S. and abroad. These programs include: the American Serbia and Montenegro Youth Leadership Exchange (A-SMYLE), Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) Program, National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y), the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program, the Youth Leadership Program (YLP) with Azerbaijan and the Youth Leadership Program (YLP) with Belarus.
American Councils spoke with Ms. Day to hear more of her story.
There are a number of international education organizations in DC. What compelled you to volunteer with American Councils?
“My friend Helga told me about this opportunity and I thought that this is exactly what I believe in. I am a strong proponent of studying abroad and learning foreign languages. When I was a teenager, I made pen pals from all over the world and it really opened up the world to me. In the 1950s, we didn’t have the kind of international access that we do now. I thought that by volunteering, I could contribute to making this possible for young adults throughout the world. This is what truly motivated me.”
In your opinion, how can overseas language immersion and study abroad experiences reduce the language and cultural barriers throughout the world?
“International education and academic exchange programs are more important than ever because of the increasing interaction between countries. I believe that the lack of exposure to foreign countries breeds a lot of the prejudice we have in the world, and that a lot of wars arise because of a lack of knowledge and understanding of other cultures.”
As you read applications from an extremely diverse pool of student, what characteristics are most notable to you?
“One of the common denominators of the strongest applicants is “sense of self”. When a person has a strong sense of self and confidence in themselves, everything else flows from that. The person is more outgoing, takes the first step in meeting people, and is generally a good problem solver.”
Many experts believe that developing proficiency in a second language is increasingly important for today’s competitive job market. Do you agree? Why?
“I feel very strongly about learning foreign languages because it enables us to get a better understanding of peoples and cultures. German is my native language, I studied French and English in school, later in the Foreign Service I studied Polish, and then I spent a month in Mexico learning Spanish through total immersion. I am delighted that so many of the applicants study three or four foreign languages, because it is exactly what I did when I was their age.”
What do you enjoy most about volunteering with American Councils?
“I enjoy hearing about these applicants’ hopes, dreams, and motivations. It is exciting when I get the chance to meet alumni, because I like hearing them talk about what became possible for them during their time in the U.S. I feel a great deal of satisfaction for having brought that about.”
If you could study abroad anywhere in the world right now, where would you go and why?
“I’ve always been very fond of Mexico and the native culture of Mexicans, so I would probably go back there to study.”
Ms. Day has thoroughly enjoyed her volunteer experience with American Councils, and encourages everyone to take advantage of volunteer opportunities that support their passion whenever possible.