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Alumni of the Week: James Llewellyn

Headshot of James Llewellyn

By James L., YES Abroad 2012-2015, Malaysia; and Becca R., YES Abroad 2018-2019, Ghana.

This story was originally published in the YES Abroad Alumni Association (YAAA) newsletter. 

Alumni of the Week James Llewellyn is a YES Abroad AND Fulbright Alum! He spent 2012-2013 in Malaysia with YES and returned in 2020 as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. He recently finished a Master’s degree in Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Wisconsin- Madison and currently works as a Program Associate at the United States-Indonesia Society (USINDO) in Washington, D.C.

He spent his undergraduate career in his home state of North Carolina, studying Politics & International Affairs at Wake Forest University. He said his decision to study international relations was impacted not only by his stay in Malaysia but also by the fact that it was an election year. “I was very interested in local politics. The local politicians and leaders weren’t like anything I had encountered before.” His experience in Malaysia also inspired him to study abroad four times while he was at Wake Forest. “Any semester I wasn’t abroad, I was talking about it.” He said his exchange skills served him well while studying in the UK, Morocco, India, and Austria. 

James’ favorite YES Abroad mantra is, “not good, not bad, just different.” He says, “The biggest advantage for working in the IR field, once you have study abroad experience, is that you are much more open to pursuing diplomatic solutions and looking at things from more than one perspective. There are many theories in IR where the solution is a forceful one, but for most IR problems there is a solution that comes from conversation and dialogue.” All of us experienced how an exchange year can help you challenge assumptions you make about people and places and James says he tries to keep this lesson at the front of his mind. “A lot of our assumptions predispose us to certain narratives to look at problems but narratives are just one way of explaining these challenges and hurdles.” He says, “My exchange experience taught me to always be really patient with things like communication and conflict. I still make assumptions but I make a lot fewer after my exchange.” James’ advice is a great reminder for all of us trying to bring more peace to our day-to-day lives.