Tatiana Farmer ’20 has been selected as a 2023 fellow for the prestigious Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Graduate Fellowship Program.
Farmer, who graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with bachelor’s degrees in global studies and psychology with a minor in Japanese, will begin her multi-year fellowship this summer as an intern in Washington, D.C. working with members of Congress on international issues.
The Rangel program of the U.S. Department of State aims to increase diversity among U.S. foreign service officers by providing professional support for historically underrepresented minority groups pursuing this career path. Fellows receive support for graduate school and two summer internships, professional development, mentoring and assured entry into the U.S. Foreign Service. Participation in the program provides a pathway into the highly competitive Foreign Service and requires a five-year service commitment.
“They really nurture your growth in this line of career,” said Farmer. Following her first year of graduate studies, she will complete a second internship at a U.S. embassy or consulate overseas.
The Rangel program is an important step towards Farmer’s ultimate goal to enter the Foreign Service as a public diplomacy officer.
“Diplomacy is very important,” said Farmer. “It’s a preventative measure to keep us from getting to a point of using force. And considering how polarized the world is now, I think it’s more important than ever. I hope to educate others on U.S. interests and promote these interests abroad.”
As a Tar Heel, Farmer engaged in a number of global education opportunities that prepared her for Rangel’s competitive application process and the fellowship to come.
During her senior year, Farmer received a Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowship through the Carolina Asia Center to study language and culture in Japan. Prior to that, Farmer traveled to Japan as a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholar, which involved a two-month homestay with a host family who spoke little English. “The experience was an intensive language study,” explained Farmer. “I had to rely heavily on my Japanese, and it improved greatly during that time.”
Her first visit to Japan was with the Kakehashi Project, a Japanese government funded initiative that offers Americans a seven- to ten-day stay to learn about the country’s foreign policy and to visit to cultural sites.
She continued to study Japanese at Carolina through courses like Food and Culture in Japan and Contemporary Japanese Film. “I really liked the [Food and Culture in Japan] course because we got to cook at the end of each class,” said Farmer. “We would taste ingredients during the first part and then either cook or watch our teacher cook the foods that we talked about.”
Farmer’s passion for Japanese language and culture started during her first language class at UNC-Chapel Hill. But she described her early interest as more of a hobby, as it stemmed from watching Japanese dramas and reading Manga, Japanese comics and graphic novels. “I didn’t start studying [Japanese] thinking that I would have a job or career that could benefit from it,” she said.
However, Farmer’s perspective changed during her junior year after she attended a presentation by the Diplomat in Residence about the Rangel Graduate Fellowship. Farmer explained that discovering the fellowship taught her an important life lesson about pursuing a passion.
“It’s fine to study things that bring you joy, even if it’s not conventional or you don’t really know what you are going to do with it,” she said. “Studying Japanese started as a hobby, and it’s opened up so many new opportunities.”
By Emily Dennin, UNC Global