Essay by Ryley Barry

Ryley Barry won the $2,000 Larry Grannis Memorial Scholarship in 2023.

“!” my host-grandmother exclaims, placing a steaming bowl of lagman before me. The smell of samsa and beshbarmak fills the home as my host-brother and his cousins run through the house. Sipping tea, I chat in Russian with my host-grandfather as he summarizes books he wrote in Kyrgyz. When I received a fully-funded scholarship from The U.S. Department of State’s National Security Language Initiative for Youth to study Russian in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan for the next year, I was overcome, yet confident that my experiences would lead me to success. From practicing Arabic phrases with my Grandad, watching Dora the Explorer in Spanish, and celebrating Lunar New Year, as a child, foreign languages were a gateway to a world of new possibilities. Such determination followed in high-school where I joined a four-year Model United Nations (MUN) Program. Negotiating with peers on the local and international level, I won awards from conferences held by Harvard, UCLA, and UC Berkeley (UCB). Rather than limit myself to the subjects my campus offered, I began taking college courses during my freshman year. Soon, I became my school’s first student in history to graduate with an Associate’s Degree before completing high-school. My Political Science major provided me with the experience necessary to establish my school’s official Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Policy as a student ambassador with UCI’s Diversity, Inclusion, and Racial Healing Program. Through contributing to my community, I realized that encountering different viewpoints is a vital stepping stone towards understanding the plight of others and helping find ways to resolve issues individuals may face. While coordinating events as National Honors Society’s President, I volunteered with the American Youth Soccer Organization’s VIP Program, helping differently-abled children play soccer in a welcoming environment. To connect with players on a deeper level, I studied American Sign Language, allowing me to better understand players’ needs. To build the confidence of youth, I founded MUN programs for local middle schools and became a Senior Teacher, aiding in the teaching of freshman MUN courses. Utilizing my public speaking abilities to support teen endeavors, I worked as an Aquarium of the Pacific Education Volunteer and Teen Climate Council Member; such efforts led to the successful hosting of the Alta-Sea and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-sponsored Teen Climate Fest. Seeking to empower others, my three years of peer tutoring in English for high-school freshmen catalyzed my employment as a college English and ESL tutor. Speaking with a multitude of perspectives sparked a desire to meaningfully contribute to a multicultural landscape. For this reason, I will become a Foreign Service Officer, negotiating positive outcomes for those lacking a voice. I will represent the values of the United States overseas, providing opportunities for others to reach their utmost potential. My Russian studies will prove vital to future negotiations for peace in global turmoil. With my recent college acceptance, I will study Politics and Government, concentrating on Middle Eastern and Mediterranean Studies. By studying in Arabic and French abroad, I will successfully aid others internationally, such as my Afghani peers who fled to Kyrgyzstan from ongoing conflict. Not only will my experiences enable my future success, but my passion for enacting a brighter tomorrow: one in which one’s language or identity no longer divides individuals but unifies people on the concept of global cooperation.


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