Two Millburn High School Students Win U.S. Department of State Scholarships

Pictured is one of the scholarship recipients, Amanda Kam Credits: Amanda Kam
Sylvia Levy
Credits: NSLI-Y

MILLBURN, NJ - Amanda Kam and Sylvia Levy of Millburn High School have been awarded National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) scholarships, which are sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and awarded to about 625 students across the US. 

NSLI-Y offers overseas study opportunities in nations where the less commonly taught languages of Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Persian, Russian, and Turkish are spoken.

On its website, NSLI-Y states, “The goals of the NSLI-Y program include sparking a life-long interest in foreign languages and cultures, and developing a corps of young Americans with the skills necessary to advance international dialogue in the private, academic or government sectors, and build upon the foundations developed through person-to-person relationships while abroad.”

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Amanda is currently taking AP French in the high school and has a passion for learning new languages and cultures. Sylvia Levy studies AP Chinese and is very excited for her trip. They will both be spending 6 weeks in the summer in Shanghai, China, living with a host family, learning the language and culture, as well as representing the USA as a youth ambassadors. 

Amanda Kam is very enthusiastic about her impending experience. 

TAP:  So I know that you have a passion for diversifying yourself and being immersed in different cultures. What travels have you previously experienced and what languages do you know?

AK:  I am currently taking AP French Language and Culture in the high school. I also know a little Cantonese Chinese and knowing this dialect will help me learn Mandarin Chinese more easily on the program. As for international travel, I've been to France (Paris), Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur), and Hong Kong.

TAP:  What are you most looking forward to about living in China?

AK:  I'm really looking forward to the food in China. Not only because I want to try new, exotic kinds of food, but also because I find that food is a way for everyone to connect with each other. It's a way I kind learn about the customs and mannerisms of the people in Shanghai. Moreover, I can't wait to go to the high school there and meet the Chinese students and compare their curriculum and learning to that in America.

TAP:  Do you want to pursue a career in government or foreign relations?

AK:  As of now, I am not set on any particular major. But yes, foreign relations, business, and international journalism are on my horizon. With technology and the importance of trade, globalization is becoming bigger than ever. Networking with others and bridging the gap between people of different cultures is key in this modern age.

TAP:  What are your interests outside of cultural diversity and school extracurricular activities?

AK:  I love playing the flute and writing both fiction and nonfiction stories, essays, and articles.

TAP:  How did you obtain the scholarship? Were you chosen? Did you apply?

AK:  I applied. Studying abroad really interested me because of my passion for language-learning and cultural diversity, so this seemed like the perfect program. Various essays, an interview, and a strong academic standing were required.

TAP:  How many peers will be joining you on the trip?

AK:  There are several implementing organizations of the China program, so I'm not quite sure the exact number.

TAP:  Have you ever been recognized for other awards? If so, what?

AK:  Won some music competitions and writing awards (e.g.: Gold Key in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards for Flash Fiction and Merit Award in the National Young Arts Foundation).


Sylvia Levy is another student receiving the scholarship. Sylvia is looking forward to her trip and the enriching experience that awaits her in Shanghai.

TAP:  What are your interests?

SL:  My interests include science, community service, music, Chinese and history, among many other things. I am the 2013-2014 elected President of the Millburn High School Key Club (a community service organization of more than 100 students that fundraises and volunteers locally).

TAP:  What most excites you about your trip to China?

SL:  I am very excited for many things in my upcoming stay in Suzhou, China including living with a host family, experiencing first-hand the customs of Chinese people and exploring a new place. 

TAP:  What languages do you study?

SL:  At Millburn High School, I study Chinese. I am currently in the AP Chinese course and have enjoyed learning at an intense level all year, because it has made my Chinese language skills much better. I also went to a Chinese language learning camp in the summer of 2012 that was administered by the Middlebury-Monterrey Language Academy. In my 8th and 9th grade years, I also enrolled in Spanish classes, which I very much enjoyed as well.

TAP:  What are your favorite foods indigenous to China?

SL:  My favorite traditional Chinese food is probably anything dim sum or in a dumpling. Living abroad during my childhood, in London and Singapore, I ate lots of different foods, but the perfect dish for me has stayed the same – dim sum.

TAP:   What future interests or jobs would you like to pursue. Are you involved in government or foreign relations?

SL:  In the future, I hope to attend a University/College that allows me to study multiple fields including: biochemistry, international relations and Asian studies. Some ideas for a future job for me right now are in the Foreign Service or in business where I can combine these areas. For example, an analyst and the World Health Organization or a public/international relation’s specialist at a scientific research institution. Right now my long-term goals are fuzzy though.

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