A Former Lost Boy on the Path to Becoming a Diplomat

Posted by Gai Nyok
June 21, 2013
Gai Nyok

I have just checked into my hotel, but find myself staring blankly at rehearsal notes.  I am to be interviewed by a panel of diplomats for the Pickering Fellowship, a fellowship which recruits college students for careers in the Foreign Service.  As I wait for the interview, I wonder to myself, will my education get paid for and will I become a diplomat?  My phone buzzes – texts from my foster mom, sister Hunter, brother Charlie, and friend Mawut, read “good luck.”   

It’s deja-vu, because 12 years earlier, in 2001, I spoke with another group of diplomats, who considered whether America should grant me asylum.   Things were very precarious then.  I was among the 10,000 Lost Boys of Sudan who, at seven to 10 years old, escaped war in Sudan, walking 500 miles for months to reach Ethiopia.  On this escape, the United Nations estimated that 5,000 boys perished from hunger, thirst, or gunfire.  

War still raged in Sudan, so our hope was Kakuma, Kenya, a sprawling camp housing 100,000 refugees.  Kakuma was a refuge in relative terms only.  Food rations were meager and unreliable: only three kilos of wheat flour every 15 days.  On the 12th or 13th day, food ran out — the camp went into hibernation until the next delivery.  We were stuck in time.  We could never become Kenyans.  Return home was no option.  So when America knocked, I answered.  In 2001, I was afforded the opportunity to be resettled in the United States.

Flash forward: I am in America now, but fate again confronts me as I apply for the Pickering Fellowship.  The events of my life play through my mind as I wait for my interview.  If given the chance,  I wonder,  what would I tell those diplomats I met so many years ago, the International Organization for Migration, the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program representatives, and the civic organizations that made my resettlement in the United States possible?  Words could never fully express my gratitude, but here is a try: because of the UNHCR-provided education in Kakuma, my transition went perfectly.  I finished high school early with a 4.0 GPA then graduated cum laude with an Economics and International Relations degree.

I’m pleased to report that my second time interviewing with a group of American diplomats went well as well as the first. Today, I am a Pickering Fellow on the path to becoming a U.S. diplomat in the Foreign Service.  I will be forever indebted to the many individuals who helped me make every step of this long journey possible.

About the Author: Gai Nyok is Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellow and a recent graduate from Virginia Commonwealth University.  He will be pursuing graduate studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in fall 2013.

Comments

Comments

Eric J.
|
United States
June 21, 2013
Well done, Gai !!
Jen P.
|
Argentina
June 21, 2013
You are truly an inspiration to me. I wish you luck and happiness in this journey that has just begun.
Kuol A.
|
Canada
June 22, 2013
Congrats brother Gai
Mohammed S.
|
Sudan
June 24, 2013
I hope all the best to you , really an inspiring story , hope to meet you one day .
Charlie W.
|
United States
June 24, 2013
I am so proud of you little brother!
Matthew S.
|
United States
June 26, 2013
I look forward to welcoming Gai as a colleague. The foreign service will be lucky to have him join our ranks. Our profession needs to not only attract bright people, which it always has, but also people who understand the importance of hope and compassion. Gai's story will give hope to millions both in the US and Africa. When we recruit people like Gai, it makes me proud of my profession.
Amanda A.
|
Kentucky, USA
July 22, 2013
Congratulations! You certainly deserve the opportunity. I am fortunate to know several other Lost Boys through my church, who are also doing very well. Like you, they are using their education and experiences to help others, which is truly inspirational. I wish you the best.

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