Kallysta “Kally” Jones always has been interested in experiencing other cultures and meeting new people. Now that she has completed her international affairs degree from Mercer University, the 2021 graduate hopes to see the world and one day become a U.S. diplomat.
This September, she’ll start working toward that goal during a yearlong assignment in Cyprus as a Fulbright Scholar. Jones, from Dallas, is one of three Mercer students who received Fulbright U.S. Student Awards to study or teach abroad. Iran Hernandez Imbert and McPherson Newell also received Fulbright awards.
“Kally aspires to one day promote international diplomacy and peace through the practice of international law. This long-term ambition starts now with building blocks crafted through education and experiences in other countries,” said Dr. Eimad Houry, professor of political science and chair of the international affairs program.
Jones, selected for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship, will arrive in Cyprus in September and return to the United States in June 2022. She will complete training this summer on how to teach English as a second language, so she can instruct students at her assigned school in Cyprus.
Jones may have opportunities to work with the U.S. Embassy and get involved in the community there. She already has pitched the idea of starting a club related to film or poetry — two of her biggest passions — as a way to showcase American culture in an informal setting.
She is learning Greek, Cyprus’ primary language, this summer and is excited to put her new knowledge into practice. In addition, she’s looking forward to trying the food in Cyprus.
Jones said this Fulbright Scholarship opportunity almost passed her by. Struggling with depression amid the pandemic, she stopped working on the application process in April 2020 and had no plans to finish. But as she started her senior year, Coordinator of Fellowships and Scholarships Dr. Cameron Kunzelman told her it wasn’t too late and encouraged her to pick back up where she left off. So, she “hunkered down and got it done.”
“It was a nerve-wracking experience, but I guess they liked what I wrote,” Jones said. “I make it the fifth consecutive year that an international affairs student at Mercer has won a Fulbright. I’m glad I can keep the streak going. It’s a competitive process, but it’s a possible process. I didn’t believe I could do it, but I mustered up a little faith, and I got it.”
In her Fulbright statement, Jones was able to showcase her involvement as a United Way Read United elementary school tutor and talk about how she helped create an afterschool program for children as a participant in the Mercer On Mission trip to Mongolia. She believes those experiences made her application more competitive.
Jones said the Mercer On Mission trip helped solidify the path for her future.
“Going to Mongolia for those 21 days and taking the two weeks of classes were life changing for me,” she said. “It made me realize I was in the right major, and I could see myself being a representative for a different country as a career.”
While a Mercer student, she also served as a peer adviser, Student Government Association senator, co-president of Model Arab League, member of the Spanish Club and intern at the Bibb County District Attorney’s Office. In addition, she was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa National Honor Society and received a Peace Corps Prep Certificate.
“As the child of immigrants and having been exposed to many cultures and influences over time, Kally has naturally become very curious and inquisitive about the extensive variety of cultural, economic, political and legal norms prevalent around the globe,” Dr. Houry said. “Accordingly, Kally has tried to take advantage of every learning opportunity presented to her at Mercer.”
There were two main reasons Jones decided to apply for the Fulbright award to Cyprus: one based on practicality and the other on curiosity.
“Statistically speaking, I had a better chance of getting the Fulbright if I went to Cyprus. For my mindset, it was more beneficial as well,” she said. “Something I’ve always enjoyed is going to places that Americans don’t typically know about. It’s the reason I decided to go on the Mercer On Mission trip to Mongolia. I’ll be learning more about that culture, but in a way I’ll also be a cultural ambassador upon my return to the United States.”
“Most students have never heard of Cyprus, let alone know something about this stable, yet divided, country,” Dr. Houry said. “Kally saw this as a challenge and an opportunity to broaden her horizons of intercultural diplomacy and to explore a country rarely mentioned in mainstream diplomatic discourse.”
After her time in Cyprus, Jones plans to earn a master’s degree related to international affairs, hopefully with the help of a Pickering Fellowship or Rangel Graduate Fellowship, which she will apply for this fall. If she secures one of those awards, she would commit to work in the foreign service for five years. She hopes to begin a career as a U.S. diplomat following that.
“I’m just hoping to go see the world and truly put what I learned into practice before I settle down somewhere,” she said.