Nathan Daniels, of Savannah, has many passions. He loves to travel, meet new people and understand world affairs. His greatest passion at UT Martin, however, is for international students.
“I’ve been able to be a peer mentor over the past few years and tutor international students and really make close friendships with students from all over the world,” he said. “One thing I’ve tried to do at UT Martin is arrange home stays for international students and help connect them with other Americans, because I really feel like you can practice diplomacy on your own campus.”
Daniels, who is working toward a degree in international studies, has had real-world practice when it comes to diplomacy. He came to the University of Tennessee at Martin to broaden his horizons and has since completed two prominent internships in Washington, D.C.
“I’ve always had an interest in international affairs and learning about other cultures. I originally transferred to UT Martin to study … international studies with a focus in security studies. I wanted to learn a new language; I wanted to learn about the world,” he said.
In the spring of 2014, Daniels became one of the first UT Martin students to complete an internship with the American Security Project, a think-tank founded by Secretary of State John Kerry and former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. He originally connected with think-tank members during a UT Martin travel-study with other security studies students. The group visited Washington, D.C., in May of 2013 and toured the ASP, the Pentagon, the Department of State and the Center for Strategic and International Studies, as well as several universities.
During this experience, Daniels worked closely with the ASP’s director of nuclear security on issues such as nuclear non-proliferation and arms control. He was also able to observe and participate in policy debates regarding the Iran nuclear talks and attended several Congressional hearings on Capitol Hill.
Working with students from such institutions as George Washington University and American University, both based in Washington, D.C., Daniels had some anxiety over his ability to perform well in his intern role. However, he was pleased to find that his UT Martin education had prepared him well, and he was able to compete on the same level as the other interns.
“I did not feel like I was behind them. I felt like I was able to keep up. … In some sense I was ahead of the other interns because I was coming from small town West Tennessee and really had to work hard to get there,” he said.
He gained additional experience as an intern in the office of Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) during the fall of 2015, where he learned about the inner workings of Capitol Hill and the United States Senate. McCaskill’s work with both the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee paired well with Daniels’ interest in security studies.
As a French minor, Daniels has also had the opportunity to spend time in Saint-Malo and Paris, France, in May 2015 while on a travel-study trip led by Dr. Lucia Florido, UT Martin associate professor of French. He stayed with a French family in Saint-Malo and learned about French culture first-hand while improving his language skills. He later traveled to the University of Lorraine in Nancy, France, in July of that year and studied with students from 23 other countries during his stay.
“Being able to have that experience, combined with my internship experience, I feel like has really given me an edge in my education at UT Martin, and has really prepared me for the future when it comes to applying for jobs,” said Daniels.
This overseas travel further strengthened his passion for international students on his home campus. Daniels is scheduled to graduate in December 2016, but he has some plans for UT Martin before he leaves.
“One thing I’ve been trying to do is work with (the Student Government Association) and the administration to hopefully secure space for a multicultural center at UT Martin. I feel like UT Martin has a lot to offer international students all over the world,” he said. “We have international students coming from Japan, from China, from South Korea and Saudi Arabia, and a lot of times, if you can help them have a good experience here, then they can take that back and share it with their families and friends.”
Daniels believes international diplomacy starts at home. He urges UT Martin students to interact with their international counterparts, not only to help them feel welcome here, but to help American students have a greater understanding of those from other cultures.
He credits his successes at UT Martin, in Washington, D.C., and abroad to his former adviser, the late Sandra Koch, coordinator of international studies at UT Martin, and to the close-knit relationships he developed with faculty members in the UT Martin College of Business and Global Affairs.
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