I have had a lot of great opportunities at BYU as far as international experiences go. One day I walked into the Kennedy Center and noticed a flyer for an internship in Geneva, Switzerland. I started pursuing that a little bit and while working with the Kennedy Center, I got a phone call asking if I would be interested in an internship with the International Trade Center in Kyrgyzstan. I said yes, but to be honest, it wasn’t until I looked at a map that I found out where I was headed.
While I was in Central Asia, I traveled to neighboring Tajikistan and quickly developed a deep respect for the Islamic culture and people there. I decided to focus my studies and future career on the Middle East, and when I returned to BYU, I started taking Persian. BYU is a great university because students have a wide array of opportunities to try out different things, and the university has the resources to help students hone in on what they want to focus on and what is right for them.
Before I went to Kyrgyzstan, I was planning on studying business or economics. But while I was abroad, I realized that there is so much out there to see and so much good that can be done in the world. For me, majoring in international relations with a Middle East emphasis was the best way to maximize my contribution to society.
I could not have financed my international experiences without BYU scholarships; nothing that I have done internationally would have been possible. BYU has been a great aid and blessing to me in my life as their scholarships have taken care of my tuition and travel costs. Having to reapply for a scholarship every year has been a great source of motivation for me; it has helped me focus on my class work and go the extra mile, because without the financial aid, I always knew I would not have ability to go abroad.
A year ago, I returned from studying in Israel, and there is no way this type of study would have been possible without scholarships. Those alums who have donated money to BYU have changed my life—I thank them with all my heart. I have been to Estonia, Latvia, Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, and the West Bank because of their generosity. They have put me in a position to have the experiences that will enable me to go out and to serve the Lord and my fellow man in a greater capacity. The course of my life will be completely different thanks to that financial support.
When it comes to international experiences, I think of the Christ-like people I met in Tajikistan, where I fell in love with the Persian people and the Persian culture. I think of traveling in Egypt or sitting down in the West Bank and having an intellectual conversation with Palestinians about the separation barrier and other current events in Israel. I think of the lessons I have learned in those and other places, coupled with what I have learned in the classroom. I can honestly say that as I leave BYU, I will be very confident in my preparation and know that I can go in to any area that I am interested in and excel—thanks to the experiences BYU has provided me.
Hansen was a Kennedy Scholar in 2008–09, graduated in international relations with a Middle East emphasis, studied Persian in Tajikistan as a Boren Fellow, and is now pursuing a degree from the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.