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‘My Future Became Very Real'

Charlette Flanders with grade school students

Charlette Flanders with Filipino students

March 2017


Last summer, St. Ambrose junior Charlette Flanders experienced lessons in international studies that she couldn't find in a book or a classroom.

Separate internships with the Philippines Embassy in South Korea and then inside the educational administrative system of the Philippines helped expand Flanders' understanding of the global role she might play in the future.

Born in the Philippines, Flanders moved with her American-born father and Filipino mother to Ottumwa, Iowa, at the age of 6. Her background as a foreign-born American citizen is among the reasons she chose to major in International Studies at St. Ambrose.

Here, classroom discussions led by International Studies Director Duk Kim, PhD, gave her a sense of issues confronting other parts of the world.

"We talked about global issues, and it was like, ‘Yeah, there are issues everywhere,'" Flanders said. "But being immersed in these issues face-to-face makes it real and tells me I can do something about it. I have an opportunity to be a voice for those who don't have a voice. My future became very real."

Experiential learning through internships is a growing curricular component in most academic majors at St. Ambrose. Study abroad experiences also provide high-impact learning that deepens student perspectives.

Opportunities to intern abroad have been relatively rare in the past, but now are growing, Kim said. "Adding this global component to their résumé is a beneficial part of their International Studies experience," he said.

Flanders' internships were created through family connections-an aunt has a high-ranking position in the Philippines' South Korean embassy and her grandfather is a retired educational administrator in Legazpi City, the capital of the Bicol Region of the Philippines.

Flanders said she gained a greater sense of the South Korean culture and the rigid formality of embassy work during that three-week internship. Another interesting reveal? Even in Seoul, less than two hours from the border, ongoing threats from North Korea did not seem to cause great concern. "If there was a real threat," she said she was told, "the government would have talked to them about it."

While traveling to rural schools in the Philippines, Flanders said she saw disconcerting signs of many students too malnourished to learn. "Those are the days I'd go home crying," she said.

Those kinds of days also brought her home to St. Ambrose determined to make a difference in the world. "That's my nation and those are my people," said Flanders. "I would love to go back and give back as much as I can."

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