ASC Service Award Winner: Ty Hopp
As a transfer student, I knew I did not have much time to fully utilize the resources of UCLA and ASC. That realization became even more significant when I decided to spend my entire senior year studying abroad in South Korea, leaving me with just a year to participate in the ASC community. After volunteering as a Project Leader in VLP last year, I told myself that despite being abroad, I would continue to find ways to volunteer; and despite South Korea's lack of volunteer opportunities for foreigners, I was one of the few chosen to serve at PSCORE, a Seoul-based non-profit organization serving North Korean refugees in South Korea. Teaching English and sharing stories with the refugees, although sometimes painful, helped us overcome our entrenched worldviews and brought mutual understanding and compassion between people of disparate backgrounds.
However, I found myself wanting to do more--and to use my experience abroad as a launchpad for bigger endeavors. I applied to the United States Department of State's Virtual Student Foreign Service (VSFS) program and was chosen by the United States Embassy Jakarta to design, organize and create a program (later called Teach for Borneo) to bring American volunteers to Balikpapan, a rapidly developing city in Borneo. Creating the program from scratch was not easy, but I made use of the skills I learned participating in VLP to make it happen. Conceptualizing the program was especially difficult given that neither my partner or I had ever been to Borneo. In response, I asked the Embassy to coordinate a trip to Balikpapan during my two-month winter break backpacking trip. I backpacked through China, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, and finally to the US Embassy in Jakarta and Balikpapan. The joke was that my "virtual" internship was really no longer virtual.
After touring the Embassy and meeting the staff, I set out with two U.S. Foreign Service Officers to spend 4 days in Balikpapan. I visited the Pesantren, the religious school where our American candidates will live and teach this summer. I met the students, took pictures and held interviews with young student leaders that shared their dreams and aspirations. After returning to Korea this semester, I used the content I collected to create the Teach for Borneo website and Facebook page. Now, we are preparing to launch a forthcoming crowdfunding campaign to finance Teach for Borneo's inaugural participants. Although I will not be teaching, my service as founder and organizer of Teach for Borneo has rewarded me with transformative experiences and a strengthened belief in the power of international organization. Through Teach for Borneo I proved to myself that service truly has no borders, and that is something I will carry with me throughout my journey as an aspiring Foreign Service Officer at the U.S. State Department.
Please visit Teach for Borneo's website and Facebook page below!
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