Patrick Cho ’13 is living out Centre College’s mission of a life of learning, leadership and service, as well as being a global citizen, as he was recently sworn in as a Foreign Service Officer (FSO) for the U.S. Department of State.
“FSOs are diplomats, representing American values, protecting American citizens and advancing American foreign policy goals abroad,” Cho explained. “Every two to three years, FSOs move to one of the 200-plus U.S. diplomatic missions around the world, getting to know a new country’s culture, language and people. The lifestyle involves some hard choices—service in danger or hardship posts and living a life away from much of your family and friends back home in the States. But it also allows FSOs to serve their country while experiencing new environments all over the world. I’ve dreamed of being an FSO since I was at Centre, and its humbling and thrilling to finally begin work as one today.”
After graduating from Centre, Cho spent two years in South Korea as a Fulbright Scholar, teaching English to high school students in Gwangju and Seoul. After his grant ended, he wanted to improve his Korean and took classes at Seoul National University before entering graduate school.
In 2016, Cho started a dual degree program between Tsinghua University in Beijing and Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington, D.C. He graduated in December and started working for the U.S. Department of State this spring.
“In Korea, I had the chance to volunteer with North Korean defectors who fled to the South,” he said. “This was a deeply personal experience, as my grandparents actually fled from the North during the Korean War before immigrating to the States. Seeing the sustained, thoughtful work necessary to foster mutual understanding between different peoples was a wonderful preview of what I hope to do as a FSO.”
During his time at Centre, Cho served as the Student Government Association (SGA) president. He said this position gave him a glimpse into how the College operates and shaped why he decided to be an FSO.
“Centre’s a remarkable place, filled with faculty and staff who truly care about students,” he added. “I was constantly amazed by their passion and commitment to improving our community. My desire to join the foreign service was shaped by that experience—the chance to work with inspiring and talented colleagues, developing programs that have an impact on people’s lives, united by a dedication to the values of an organization you love.”
Cho encourages students to consider working abroad after graduating.
“I had never lived anywhere but Kentucky before moving to Korea and China, and I was deeply anxious about adapting to cultures and languages so different from our own,” he concluded. “I wound up loving it so much I found a career that would allow me to do it again and again. The friendships, new perspectives and empathy for other people you find enrich life in many ways; it’s a great blessing to live in a country that’s so different from the U.S. but feels like a second home.”
by Kerry Steinhofer
May 2, 2019