“If we’re going to be interconnected, we’ve got to understand other people.”
That’s the idea that has driven Bobby Puckett ’13 since his first days as a political science major and Spanish minor at Transylvania University. He’s lived by that creed ever since, taking every opportunity available to him to visit and learn about other cultures around the world.
He did an internship in politics in London while at Transylvania, and when he graduated he became a policy intern at the Kentucky Governor’s Office before heading to Spain in September 2013 to teach English in Galicia for a year.
This fall he will begin his master’s in international relations at Oxford University. He also landed an eight-week student internship with the U.S. State Department, where he will be placed in the London Embassy working with the Executive Office.
Got all that? Let’s back up.
His wild ride began with the Presidential election in 2008, the first one where he could vote. He became fascinated by the campaign, particularly the discussion on international affairs.
“At the time we were talking about Iraq—which we’re talking about again now—and because I was young, Obama appealed to me,” he says. “The discourse was—are we going to get our troops out of Iraq? I paid a lot of attention to that.”
The next fall he enrolled at Transylvania, where political science professors Don Dugi and Michael Cairo began challenging his understanding of politics and foreign relations, and he knew that international politics was where he would spend his career.
“We don’t have that many opportunities in the U.S. to visit other countries since we’re so isolated,” he says. “I think it’s interesting to bring ideas back and forth because there are a lot of good ideas from the American perspective, and there are a lot of things we need to work on. That’s why I wanted to do these internships.”
No experience solidified that for him like the nine months in Spain, teaching English at IES a Sangriña. In order to foster the exchange of ideas, he started a conversation club with his juniors and seniors, where they would meet a couple times a week and have discussions in English for a while, then Spanish. They talked about topics like Spanish stereotypes about the United States—“They asked me if we smoke all the time”—and through that, Puckett got the idea to connect with a Spanish class at his alma mater, Murray High School, and let the students talk to each other on Skype.
“It was small-town Kentucky students speaking with small-town Spanish students,” he says.
All of that goes back to the idea of connectedness and understanding the world outside your own, something Puckett insists is constantly becoming more important in a changing society.
“In the world after the Soviet Union, we have this idea of globalization, where we now have to worry about things outside our borders that we’ve never worried about before,” he says. “If we don’t adapt to new things and learn about other people in our dealings with other countries, we’re going to fall behind or lose out. There are many good things about the United States, but there are many things that, if we have our blinders on about the way the world works, will change, and we won’t understand why. That’s why I want to do this.”
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