By Julia Duvall
Growing up, Lanasia Pleasants, a sophomore from Havelock majoring in international studies and communication at Western Carolina University, foreign language studies was not something she heard much about.
But taking a Spanish class in middle school opened her eyes to the opportunities learning a foreign language could offer. In high school, Pleasants discovered Korean dramas and she was intrigued by the language and all the various dialects used in different parts of South Korea.
“I, of course, was used to the English language where we might have different accents but overall, the language is the same,” Pleasants said. “To then discover these language-based shows really got me interested in learning Korean and immersing myself in the culture.”
Continuing to learn about the language and culture, Pleasants’ entire family became interested in learning more, with Pleasants’ sister introducing them to the music genre called “K-Pop” and Korean food.
“My family and I used to frequent a Korean barbecue restaurant and the owner taught us how to use chopsticks and the grill,” Pleasants said. “We got to learn how the grill worked and I discovered my love for kimchee, a versatile Korean food that you can use in a variety of dishes.”
Pleasants continued to try and learn Korean on her own, which proved to be difficult. Once it was time to choose a university, she did her research and found WCU’s foreign language studies program.
“While WCU did offer a Korean language course, I was able to take courses through the University of North Carolina’s online program and get credit at WCU and that opened lots of doors for me,” Pleasants said.
One of the courses Pleasants was in at WCU was taught by Ingrid Bego, WCU’s director of International Studies, who encouraged Pleasants to apply for the National Security Education Program David L. Boren Scholarship, which would allow Pleasants the opportunity to study abroad in South Korea.
The David L. Boren scholarships and fellowships are sponsored by the National Security Education Program, a component of the Defense Language and National Security Education Office. NSEP is a federal initiative designed to build a broader and more qualified pool of U.S. citizens with foreign language and international skills.
Boren awards provide U.S. undergraduate and graduate students with resources and encouragement to acquire language skills and experience in countries critical to the future security and stability of the U.S.
In exchange for funding, Boren award recipients agree to work in the federal government for a period of at least one year.
Pleasants was chosen as the 2023 recipient and is only the third WCU student to receive this scholarship.
“We are very proud of Lanaisa,” Bego said. “Her enthusiasm for learning the language and culture is very rewarding and is paving the way for future WCU students.”
Pleasants is thrilled to get to study the Korean language in South Korea this fall and her friends from WCU who are international students from South Korea, are helping her prepare for the trip.
“One of my friends from WCU will actually be back in South Korea while I am there, so she will be a great resource of information,” Pleasants said. “I also have a cousin that lives there, so I have a great support system.”