Developing Essential Skills Through Cultural Exchange

Simone Hassan Bey

How Time Spent in Korea Inspired One Student to Change The World

One of the primary objectives of iEARN and the programs we administer is to help students develop essential (previously referred to as 21st Century) skills. In today's rapidly changing world, essential skills prepare students for the challenges and opportunities of the future. They benefit both the students themselves and those they interact with in their workplaces, social circles, and communities in many ways, including the following: 

  • Increased employability: Many employers today are looking for candidates who possess essential skills such as critical thinking, communication, collaboration, creativity, and digital literacy. By developing these skills, students increase their chances of landing a job and advancing in their careers.
  • Adaptability: The world is changing rapidly, and students who have essential skills are better equipped to adapt to new technologies, work environments, and social and economic trends.
  • Enhanced learning: Essential skills such as critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration are essential for effective learning. Students who possess these skills are better able to engage with and understand complex ideas and information.
  • Preparedness for civic engagement: In order to participate fully in a democratic society, individuals need to be able to think critically about social issues, collaborate with others, and communicate effectively. Developing essential skills can help students become active and engaged citizens.
  • Innovation and entrepreneurship: The ability to think creatively and collaborate with others is essential for developing new ideas and starting businesses. Students who possess these skills are more likely to be successful innovators and entrepreneurs.
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Simone Hassan-Bey is a young woman who has already dedicated her life to making a difference in the world and truly embodies the value of developing essential skills. In 2016, she participated in NSLI-Y's Korea program, an intensive year-long student exchange that allowed her to experience cultures outside of her own and make lasting friendships - ones that she still maintains today. While recounting stories and memories of her time in Korea, she emphasized how important it is for young people to have the opportunity to learn about different cultures and believes that this exposure to diversity is crucial in shaping one's perspective and creating a more positive and empathetic world. 

"I think I went to NSLI-Y at a really interesting time," she said

"This was 2016 and so politically in Korea, there was a call for the resignation of Park Geun-Hye, their president at the time. In the U.S., we had the presidential election and all that surrounded it happening. And so, as the only also black student on the program, a lot of Koreans were interested in what my thoughts were about what was happening in the U.S. Even though they were very different issues, what the U.S. and Korea were experiencing were similar in terms of political discourse and how it was changing dynamics within families - and it just made me realize the kind of magnitude and impact that these global events can have across the world. It also made me think about how much I value community and wanting to do what's best for my own community, which is something that's really important in Korea as well. It made me think a lot more about how different people interact and the importance of learning other languages too, because you get to speak to people's hearts instead of focusing on grammatical structure to get your point across.

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Simone's involvement with NSLI-Y has also had a major impact on her life in other ways. The program allowed her to develop valuable leadership and communication skills that have served her well in her work with various organizations since graduating college in 2021. She is the co-founder of Rooted Uprising, a social and environmental justice collective aiming to engage, elevate, and empower community, and serves as the Recruitment Director for Veggie Mijas. Simone also works in BIPOC-centered philanthropy with Freedom Futures, and in public affairs & communications with Original Strategies. 

Simone's passion for helping others comes from her upbringing, where she learned the importance of serving and helping the community. Her mother instilled in her the value of giving back to those in need, which has been a driving force in her work. She has also been influenced by her experiences abroad, particularly in Korea, where she was able to learn about different cultures and family dynamics through her interactions with other students and with her host families. What's more, these experiences enabled her to learn more about herself and what she is capable of achieving, giving her the confidence to step into the important work of pursuing justice, equity, and harmony within communities here in the U.S. and around the world.