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Seaver College Student Wrenn Yennie: Education Gone Global
The youth of America don’t care about foreign culture, the stereotype goes. They neglect to learn other languages, travel to distant countries, or appreciate the art, history, and nuanced identities of people outside the United States. Wrenn Yennie, Seaver College senior, is proving the stereotype wrong.
Yennie has gotten a head start on her desired career in international affairs by gaining extensive first-hand experience. Throughout her life, she has lived in over half a dozen countries and gained competency in seven languages, in three of which she is fluent. A double major in French and international studies with a specialization in Asian studies, Yennie has already immersed herself in the cultures that will eventually define her career.
Raised in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, Yennie transitioned to home schooling beginning in eighth grade. At home she delighted in the flexibility and freedom she would have missed in class with her peers. “Because I was home schooled, I was able to learn languages and other subjects that you wouldn’t normally learn in high school,” Yennie explains. “That, along with traveling—both with my family and by myself—really helped me to mature and become culturally exposed.”
By the time she was 16, Yennie had completed her high school work. She then moved to Japan and lived with a host family—the first of several culturally diverse homes she would have. “Living in so many countries really makes you become aware of how fortunate you are to be an American,” Yennie notes. “At the same time, you also respect other cultures for their differences and learn to love them for being unique and different from your own.”
Yennie particularly remembers experiences with her host family in Grenoble, France, where she lived with a French-Lebanese couple. “My Lebanese host father taught me how to cook Lebanese food and would greet me at the door in Arabic, while my French host mother would teach me how to write business letters in French,” she recalls.
Fluent in Japanese, English, and French, Yennie is proficient in Spanish, German, Italian, and Chinese as well. French was the first foreign language Yennie studied; she cites it as an extremely useful foundation for exploring other languages. Her favorite to learn was Japanese. “My teachers in Japan were very encouraging and every Japanese person I attempted to speak to was very patient and just overjoyed that a foreigner was showing an interest in their culture,” Yennie remembers. “I felt very welcomed and became confident when speaking, and confidence is key when learning a foreign language.”
A desire to study abroad as well as to challenge herself academically led Yennie to enroll in the prestigious Universite de Paris- Sorbonne; there, she fostered future plans to attend law school for intellectual property rights. She quickly realized, however, that she was not heading down the path that was right for her.
“I didn’t feel like I would be able to use my languages and experiences as much as I’d hoped,” she says. “I wanted to make a difference, and I had such an advantage because of my travels. To be that immersed is to learn more than just words, but also the nuances that define a culture.”
After only a semester in Paris, Yennie transferred to Pepperdine to pursue her passion for international studies. “Pepperdine’s international studies major allows you to mold the major to your interests and cover a broad range of subjects,” Yennie observes. “I also chose Pepperdine because there are so many opportunities to get involved. It’s a great feeling and it really makes you think about how you can give back to the community.”
Upon arriving in California, Yennie soon took advantage of such opportunities. Currently, she is a tutor in various subjects and a teaching assistant in the French department. She was also president of the French National Honor Society for two years.
This past summer, Yennie had an internship at the United States Government Accountability Office in Washington, D.C., and was part of an international affairs and trade team. She helped develop a report entitled “State and United States Agency of International Development,” which, she explains, included a comprehensive plan to improve the consolidation of overseas support services.
By allowing her to work beside the top political and economic analysts in the country, the internship gave Yennie a first-hand look at what drives policy. It was particularly fitting for the type of work she hopes to undertake in the future. Her ultimate career goal is to get involved in government abroad, or, more specifically, become a government official in Japan.
Before establishing a career in international government, however, Yennie says that her next step is graduate school. “I’m actually in the process of applying to 10 graduate schools—two in Japan, one in Switzerland and seven in the United States,” she says. “Learning is something I love to do, and now that I have had the opportunity to get a head start, I want to keep going so that I make the largest possible contribution.”
by Lindsey Boerma