TWO students have been selected to spend six months in Washington DC as part of a Friendship Agreement that the U.S. capital has with the City of Sunderland.
Richard Cook and Beccy McConvill are the first two exchange students from the University of Sunderland to go to the University of the District of Columbia on a scholarships programme.
The undergraduates will begin their exchange visit in January for one semester until May, studying and living in student halls at the University of the District of Columbia, acting as ambassadors on behalf of Sunderland.
On arrival they will be welcomed formally by senior officials in Washington DC and have the opportunity to get involved in project work under the Friendship Agreement alongside their studies.
The Agreement was signed in June 2006 to forge new economic, educational and cultural links between the two cities.
Sunderland is the only non-capital city globally to have such an agreement.
Richard, 20, from Sacriston, County Durham, and Beccy, 19, from Jarrow, were selected from dozens of students who applied for the trip of a lifetime by a panel of academics and international officers.
Emma Pearce, Sunderland International Officer, said: “Over the years we have successfully welcomed a number of American students on our campus as a result of the partnership we have with the University of the District of Columbia.
“We felt it was the right time to carry out our own reciprocal exchange and were looking for two well balanced students, who excelled academically, showed an interest in the Friendship Agreement and would be good representatives for this university. Both Beccy and Richard ticked all the boxes.”
For Richard, a second-year politics student, the exchange visit will provide him with an insight into the workings of another country’s political system, being based at the centre of America’s Government in Washington DC.
He said: “As well as attending political science lectures at the University of the District of Columbia, I’ll definitely be visiting Capitol Hill and the our Embassy in Washington DC, there’s also a chance to do some work with the US National Archives.
“This really is the trip of a lifetime and I hope to get as much from the experience as possible. I feel incredibly lucky to have been selected as an ambassador for Sunderland.”
Richard, who hopes to pursue a career in politics once he graduates, added: “Hopefully the work and study I’m involved in during this exchange visit will enhance my degree work back in Sunderland.”
Beccy, who is in the second year of a history degree and wants to work in a museum when she graduates, hopes to learn as much as about the history and culture of American during her stay.
She said: “I’m looking forward to experiencing how history is taught in America.
“I also think it will help enhance some of the American history modules I’ll be studying at Sunderland.
“I’m incredibly excited about this trip and very honoured to have been selected to represent the university as an ambassador.”
The pair say they plan to fit in plenty of sightseeing between their lectures and will give regular updates of their trip to family and friends back home through Skype.
They’ll also be welcomed on the U.S. campus by some familiar faces – scholarship students who have already taken part in the exchange programme to Sunderland.
This scholarship agreement marks the continuing partnership between the University of Sunderland and the University of the District of Columbia, which continues to see a range of activities to develop links between the two institutions.