Hemlata Mistry ’05 watches news reports about North Korea with a special fascination. She developed an academic passion for the Korean culture and language while at North Central, and now her hard work and advanced studies have resulted in a prestigious Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA). She will begin the orientation process in July and then receive an assignment to teach English in South Korea while engaging in cultural exchange programs and furthering her own Korean language studies. At North Central, she was an international studies major, focusing on International politics and East Asian studies.
“I first started researching Korea while I was at College of DuPage because I was fascinated that it remained divided after the Cold War,” she explains. “After I transferred to North Central, I continued my research interests while taking East Asian studies classes and participating in an independent study on the Korean peninsula.” She also embarked on a study abroad exchange to Yonsei University in Seoul. She wrote her honors thesis about the inter-Korean diplomatic relationship and adds, “I had found my passion.”
Since graduation, Mistry has completed an internship at the British consulate in Chicago and a master’s degree at the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington, where she continued her Korean studies. “I focused on the dynamics of regional nuclear security diplomacy concerning North Korea and I co-established a Korean-focused student organization.”
Mistry continues: “I’m especially interested in diplomacy and in promoting an understanding of the culture of Korea because we only hear negative news about North Korea. The ETA program lets you engage students to promote cultural understanding. And I’m looking forward to being in an area outside Seoul.”
Mistry began the application process about a year ago, working with Perry Hamalis North Central College Cecelia Schneller Mueller Professor of Religion and director of the Office of Academic Opportunities, to craft her one-page personal statement. She feels that her application was helped by her education, paired with her ethnic background and experience living in both British and American cultures. Her grandparents immigrated from India to East Africa colonies in the early 20th century and her parents migrated to the United Kingdom. Mistry was born in the Greater Manchester area and moved with her family to the Naperville area as a teen.
“My long-term goal is to earn a Ph.D. in international relations and focus on Korean diplomacy,” she explains. “I want to help rectify the lack of U.S. scholars and graduate programs dedicated to Korean studies.”