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Rachel Tang graduated from UCLA in 2018 with a bachelor's degree in political science and was a recipient of the Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship from the UCLA Center for Southeast Asian Studies.

By Rachel Tang (UCLA, 2018)


Rachel Tang was recently awarded a 2020 Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellowship, funded by the U.S. Department of State and administered by Howard University. The Rangel Fellowship is designed to support those who wish to pursue careers in the U.S. Foreign Service. Through the Rangel Fellowship, Tang will pursue a two-year master’s degree at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University starting Fall 2020. During the next two summers, she will intern with a Member of Congress on issues related to foreign affairs and be sent overseas by the Department of State to intern in a U.S. Embassy or Consulate to get hands-on experience with U.S. foreign policy.

While at UCLA, Tang received the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship to study abroad in Thailand and the Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship from the UCLA Center for Southeast Asian Studies to study Thai language. The FLAS Fellowship is intended to help students through foreign language and area studies training to pursue careers in K-12 and university teaching, state and government service, NGOs or other sectors of national need.

What aspects of the Rangel Fellowship are you looking forward to?

"I am looking forward to gaining mentorship and connecting with other fellows who share my same passion for diplomacy. A unique benefit of the Rangel Fellowship is access to a larger professional network. I am excited to gain insight and learn from the perspectives of the other members of my cohort. I am also looking forward to returning to an academic setting to pursue graduate studies in International Affairs/Conflict Resolution in Fall 2020."

What were some highlights from your undergraduate experience at UCLA?

"One highlight of my undergraduate career was studying abroad in Thailand during Spring 2017 and interning at the U.S. Consulate in Bangkok the following summer. I was able to learn how to navigate cultural differences, partly by learning Thai, and my internship experience solidified my decision to become a diplomat. Once I returned to UCLA for my senior year, I continued to study Thai through the FLAS Fellowship."

What have you learned from your post-graduate experience?

"After graduating from UCLA in 2018, I served as an AmeriCorps member at the International Rescue Committee (IRC) to bridge disparities between newly arrived refugees and their new local communities. I learned to listen and find creative solutions to help my clients overcome cultural, language and other socioeconomic barriers. I realized through this experience that I value connecting with people of different backgrounds and I seek to be surrounded by diversity throughout my career and life."

Why do you want to become a diplomat?

"My commitment to public service stems from the fact that I am a daughter of refugees. My family was able to rebuild their lives in the United States and know freedoms within a democracy. I aspire to be a diplomat because I hope to represent the diversity in this country while promoting diplomacy as an alternative to the very conflicts that cause displacement."

How does your background in Southeast Asian Studies frame your thinking about diplomacy and how will it help you in your future career?

"My interest in Southeast Asian Studies inspired me to learn Thai in order to study abroad, pursue an internship in Thailand and continue with language and area studies coursework at UCLA through the FLAS Fellowship. I gained cultural understanding and language skills that helped prepare me in applying for the Rangel Fellowship and ultimately a career in the Foreign Service.

Furthermore, I developed skills to think critically about the role of the United States in foreign affairs and international diplomacy in my undergraduate classes focusing on Southeast Asian history and conflicts in the region. I view my background in Southeast Asian Studies as the foundation for graduate studies and my future career. I am grateful to the UCLA Center for Southeast Asian Studies and I am especially indebted to Professor Geoffrey Robinson and Dr. Jenjit Gasigitamrong for their support."




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Published: Wednesday, February 26, 2020