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Global Citizens

For Shelton Scholars, the World is a Classroom

When Raleigh-native and Shelton National Scholar Ryan Nilsen sat down at the 2005 Shelton Leadership Forum, he was suddenly struck by a growing need to explore.

As General H. Hugh Shelton and John C. Maxwell shared the need for innovative leaders who could respond, with creativity, to the world around them, Nilsen began to feel as though the community around him was growing and his understanding of it wasn’t.

“I knew there were real needs out there, but I couldn’t speak much to them, though I wanted to,” he said.

Since that first semester at NC State, Ryan has turned concern into action, traveling the globe to study and to serve in communities from West Africa to Latin America. He is one of a growing group of Shelton Scholars who are taking advantage of the scholarships’ annual enrichment stipends to explore new cultures and learn firsthand about the need for and responsibilities of global citizens in an increasingly needy world. 

Ryan, who is studying international relations and English, spent his first summer at NC State at the University of Oxford, as part of the NCSU at Oxford Program. There, he took courses in Shakespeare and had the unique opportunity to study modern history from a British – and not American – perspective.

From Oxford, Ryan traveled directly to West Africa, where he spent the fall semester studying at the University of Ghana.

“I flew from a colonizing nation to one of its colonized, only fifty years after independence, and my world was, in many significant ways, reformed,” Ryan said. He studied African literature and volunteered at a local orphanage, gaining a unique view of the African nation’s economic and social struggles.

“My experience in Ghana was profound in broadening my world and allowing me to relate to the foreign problems of the world that I would continue to hear from headlines,“ he said.

Since studying abroad, Ryan has continued to travel, participating in Alternative Spring Break trips to Guatemala and a summer service-learning trip to Mexico.

Each time, he says, he begins to feel his understanding of the world around him – and his responsibility to it - growing. He’s walked through urban poverty in Guatemala, heard stories of immigrants from a uniquely Latin American culture, and reflected on the ideological struggles of a post-colonial state.

It’s a long – and global – journey from the student who sat at the Shelton Leadership Forum and felt disconnected from the world around him.

For more information about the enrichment stipends offered by the Shelton Leadership Scholarships, visit: http://www.ncsu.edu/extension/sheltonleadership/leadership-scholarships/national-scholarships.php.

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