Entering the world stage

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Jennifer Cardoza uses time in Korea to prepare for career as diplomat.

Jennifer Cardoza’s family came to the United States as refuges in 1990, fleeing from the civil war that raged in El Salvador during the 80s until the 90s. Her parents wanted to provide their family and their daughter a better life, and the chance to follow her dreams.

Now, 24 years later, Cardoza is taking full advantage of the opportunity her family provided her—she is in the final stretch of earning her international affairs degree at Northern Arizona University, supplemented by spending time gaining educational insight studying abroad in South Korea until June.

Encouragement, abroad and at home

As the first in her family to attend college, Cardoza says she chose to come to Northern Arizona University because of the strength of the international affairs program and because the university offered her opportunity through scholarships and support.

“I saw international affairs as an opportunity to for me to be able to see and better understand the world,” Cardoza explains. “I've been given the chance to do that by studying abroad through the international program.”  

With the help and encouragement of her economics professor, Nancy Baca, and Dianna Sanford, her mentor from student support services, Cardoza was selected for the Boren Scholarship. This scholarship awards up to $20,000 for an academic year to undergraduate students to enable them to study abroad in countries that are of key interest to the United States.

“Dianna was my mentor for the last four years, and she and Nancy wrote my letter of recommendation,” Cardoza explains. “Nancy specialized in Korea, and really encouraged me to take her course, Principles of Macroeconomics. I learned so much that prepared me to study abroad.”

As Cardoza furthered her classroom education abroad while also studying and learning Korean, she says one of the most valuable lessons she learned was the power a strong support group and a compassionate community abroad.

 “One of the first things that shocked me in Korea was actually the sense of community,” Cardoza says. “I had an accident my first semester in Korea where I ended up in the hospital with a broken sternum. I didn't know the language or what was going on, and they just took care of everything I needed and helped me recover. It was really incredible.”

Foreign relations

In addition to providing funding for Cardoza to study abroad, the Boren Scholarship also stipulates that she will work for the federal government within three years. For Cardoza, who dreams of being a diplomat, it’s an opportunity to progress one step closer to her goals.

“I'm definitely excited,” Cardoza says. “The Boren Scholarship helps me get my foot in the door, which will mean that I'm that much closer to the reality of being able to achieve my goals of joining the Foreign Service in the future.”

Following graduation from Northern Arizona University, and fueled by the lessons learned from her parents, her mentors, and abroad, Cardoza was accepted to both the Peace Corps and the Cultural Ambassadors Program in Spain, and is deciding on which one she will pursue.

“I'm really grateful I got my start at Northern Arizona University because I've been able to go abroad, which was my goal since I started in the international affairs program,” Cardoza says. “There have been so many people along the way that I've met at the university who have become my mentors. I am very grateful to have such inspiring influences like Dianna and Nancy to look up to.  I’ve learned so much.”