Reaching Milestones through iEARN-USA & NSLI-Y

Taekwondo In South Korea

This Giving Tuesday, December 3, 2019, Alexander Litz is raising funds to support iEARN-USA. Alexander is an iEARN-USA alum of the National Security Language for Youth (NSLI-Y), a U.S. Department of State program that provides merit-based scholarships for eligible high school students and recent high school graduates to learn less commonly taught languages in summer and academic-year overseas immersion programs.

iEARN-USA has been implementing partner of the NSLI-Y program since 2009, and supported more than 1,000 youth to study critical languages abroad, live with host families, learn about other cultures, and have a transformative international exchange experience. iEARN-USA NSLI-Y staff also host multi-virtual events each year to support students before, during, and after their program experiences. 

Read on to learn about Alexander's experience as an iEARN-USA NSLI-Y program participant and his journey to becoming a "Universal Peace Ambassador" below, and make a gift to his iEARN-USA Giving Tuesday fundraiser by visiting:

My name is Alexander Litz and I am currently an undergraduate student at Temple University Japan majoring in International Affairs and Asian Studies. 

Growing up, Taekwondo was my entire life, which lead me to becoming interested in Korean culture and eventually the Korean language. As a sophomore in high school this lead me to applying and eventually receiving a National Security Language for Youth (NSLI-Y) award and I had the incredible pleasure of spending 8 weeks studying Korean in Seoul during my summer break.

Those 8 weeks were incredible! I went from googling "how to say hello in Korean" before the plane ride to being able to talk to my host family about what I did during the day, and even being able to understand the instructions in Korean that were being given during Taekwondo! 

Alex at Bongeunsa Temple In South Korea

The moment I stepped back on to the plane I immediately knew that I wanted to go back to Korea, which is why I applied again to do the NSLI-Y Korean program again, this time for an entire year.  The year was a lot tougher than the summer. The academic work was much more intense and at times I felt like my Korean wasn't improving as much as it did when I first started learning Korean. However when things got tough iEARN told me that I was not alone in this matter and that the feeling of not being able to progress my language ability was actually very normal among language learners and that there was a sort of curve to it. Knowing that I was not alone in this struggle was a big relief and took a lot of pressure off of myself. By the end of the academic year, my Korean had improved all the way to the "Advanced Low" level and I felt that even if I didn't always know the right vocabulary word in Korean, I could always use my other vocabulary to describe the word or phrase I was missing. Unfortunately however when I got to university I found out that I had already tested out of all the possible Korean courses offered at my school. 

Alex at the Tiger Dragon Temple In South Taiwan

At first I was very bummed out because I wanted to continue to advance my Korean as much as I could however where one door closes another one opens and my academic adviser recommended that I look into studying Mandarin Chinese as I had mentioned that Korean had shared many of the same stem words as Japanese, the reason being that the words both originated from Chinese. I ended up loving Chinese and after my first year I was awarded a Taiwan United States Sister Relations Alliance (TUSA) award from the Taiwanese government to go study Chinese in South Taiwan for 3 months during my summer break. Just as with my experience with Korea, I fell in love with Taiwan and learning Chinese and the following year I was awarded a Boren Award from the U.S. Department of Education to return to Taiwan in order to continue my study of the Chinese Language which is where I am now. While I am not currently studying Korean at the moment, I am still very grateful for all of the opportunities that learning Korean from the NSLI-Y program has opened up for me. 

Alex receiving the Universal Peace Ambassador Award

During my second year of undergraduate studies, the Embassy of the Republic of Kosovo in Japan ended up scouting me as an intern because of my language qualifications. One thing lead to another and  the Embassy ended up nominating and I ended up receiving the 2019 "Universal Peace Ambassador" award from the Universal Peace Federation for my participation and continued advocacy for foreign exchange and international education. It was a huge surprise to have received the award and has been one of the highest honors of my career so far. 

Without having done the NSLI-Y program through iEARN-USA I never would have been able to meet any of these huge milestones and I doubt I would be on the same track I am on now. 

Support programming and opportunities for youth to become global citizens and leaders in their local and global communities with a gift to iEARN-USA today. 

Donate to Alex's Giving Tuesday campaign through December 3, 2019!