Scholarships change individuals, but they also change the world

Support helps ASU junior Abbey Pellino launch career in the foreign service

Scholarships helped Abbey Pellino visit places like Ukraine and France, inspiring her to pursue a career in foreign service.

Some people bring home souvenirs when they travel.

Abbey Pellino returned from her first overseas trip with something more significant: the idea that she could make a difference in the world.

The summer of her freshman year, she visited Ukraine and the Czech Republic as a student ambassador with the ASU Rotaract Club, the young adult affiliate of Rotary International.

It would be months before violence would erupt between Ukrainians and ethnic Russians, a story that is still playing out on the world stage. But tensions there were already simmering. Since Abbey stayed with people on both sides of the conflict, she heard both sides of the story. She visited Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine, which was later torched by protestors.

“The experience changed my life,” she remembers. “Not only did I read about it on the news, I saw it firsthand.”

Back at ASU, she continued to pursue travel opportunities and study world affairs.

Abbey’s global aspirations were recognized in May when she received the Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Undergraduate Fellowship, a sought-after award that prepares students for work in the U.S. Department of State Foreign Service. Administered by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, the fellowship cultivates students whose academic backgrounds show they are dedicated to representing America’s interests abroad.

Hundreds apply, yet only 20 undergraduate and 20 graduate fellows are chosen each year. Abbey is only the third ASU student chosen for the Pickering Fellowship since it began in 1992.

Undergraduate fellows receive mentoring, professional development and financial support for their senior year and, after they graduate, the first year of graduate studies. Undergraduate fellows also intern with the State Department in Washington, D.C. after their senior year and intern abroad after their first year of graduate studies. Once they earn their master’s degree and pass the Foreign Service exam, fellows commit to five years in the U.S. Foreign Service.

a global path paved by scholarships

Now a junior at ASU, Abbey attends Barrett, The Honors College. Her university education has been made possible by several ASU scholarships, including the Regent High Honors Endorsement, the Barrett Scholarship for Excellence and the Obama Scholarship.

ASU’s emphasis on working across disciplines allowed Abbey to craft a major that integrated her global experiences with her academic studies.

“ASU let me be independent and study what I wanted to study. It let me take the reins myself and pursue my own interests. I wasn’t locked into a particular program of study,” she says. “It’s a lot easier to study something you’re interested in and passionate about.”

She’s earning a degree in global studies and sociology with certificates in international studies and religion and conflict. Her goal is to work in international mediation.

As a sophomore, Abbey landed a scholarship with the Semester at Sea program, taking courses on board an ocean liner and visiting 17 countries in four months.

At every port, a member of the U.S. Foreign Service would brief students on the socioeconomics and politics of the region.

Those Foreign Service agents planted a seed.

“The more the diplomats came on board the ship, the more I began to think, ‘This is the job that fits my interests,’”Abbey remembers. “I began to think, ‘I want to be the person up there saying, ‘When I was stationed in this country …’”

Another opportunity came when she was chosen as an undergraduate research fellow in the ASU’s Center for Religion and Conflict.

As she prepares for her senior year, Abbey reflects on the trips that have shaped her academic career. When she says something like, “I think I can really make a difference in the townships in South Africa,” you believe her.

For more information on how you can support students like Abbey through scholarships, please click here.