(Williamsburg, Va.) – Shay Jannat, a rising junior at the College of William and Mary, was recently awarded a prestigious Thomas R. Pickering Undergraduate Foreign Affairs Fellowship.
The fellowship, which is funded by the U.S. Department of State and administered by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, provides funding to students as they prepare to enter the State Department's Foreign Service.
"In all honesty, the Pickering Fellowship quintessentially lays out the next ten-and-a-half years of my life precisely as I would have dreamed it to be," said Jannat. "It is a big and long-term commitment, but I feel as if nothing better could have happened to me in my life at this point. I do not know why I have been privileged in such a way. It is still surreal to me!"
A native of Naugatuck, Conn., Jannat said that she has wanted to be a diplomat or international civil servant all of her life. As she started pursing a major in international relations and economics at William and Mary and became very involved in international service trips, she said, "that aspiration became stronger and stronger."
During her time at William and Mary, Jannat has served as a Project Mexico leader, an international service trips co-director, a resident assistant, a Sharpe Scholar and Fellow, a Monroe Scholar, a Charles Center peer scholarship advisor, a multicultural recruitment intern, a government research assistant, a member of the South Asian Students Association, and a participant in the Student Leadership Foundation. She is currently spending her summer participating in a Project Mexico international service trip, studying Arabic and conducting research in Cairo, Egypt, and finally conducting research in Bangladesh.
Started in 1992, the Pickering Undergraduate Foreign Affairs Fellowship is named for one of the most distinguished American diplomats of the latter half of the 20th century. Only 20 students are selected per year for the fellowship, which provides tuition, room, board and mandatory fees during the fellows' junior and senior years of college and first year of graduate study. The fellowship also comes with two State Department internships -- one abroad and one domestic -- and a junior summer institute in D.C. In return, fellows are obligated to a minimum of four-and-one-half years of service as a Foreign Service officer.
Jannat said she had lots of help from people at William and Mary in achieving the fellowship.
"It would have not been possible without William and Mary and the unparalleled support and guidance I received from the people and institutions at our College," she said. "I cannot accentuate enough how fortunate I am to be a student at this College, because it is truly because of the support and preparation I have received here that the Pickering Fellowship was made possible for me."
Along with feeling grateful for all of the help she received, Jannat said she was also excited to get the fellowship because it meant that she could lift some of the financial burden off of her parents' shoulders.
"My parents mean the world to me, and they work so hard to push me to pursue my ambitions and to provide the financial means through which to do so," she said. "It feels amazing that the next two years of College and (most of) graduate school is paid for … Oh! And I have a job after I graduate!"
For more on the undergraduate Pickering Fellowship, visit http://www.woodrow.org/fellowships/foreign_affairs/pickering_undergrad/index.php.