Flagship student awarded U.S. embassy internship in Beijing

Samantha Wright

Jay Todd Richey, sophomore from Glasgow, will be going to the U.S. embassy in Beijing this summer for a 10-week long internship. 

A position in this internship is highly coveted, and only a couple of students from the U.S. are selected. 

Richey was astounded when he received the news that he had been awarded the internship.

“Honestly, I absolutely could not believe it,” he said. “Not only is it difficult to get an internship with the U.S. embassy, it’s difficult to get it in a place as coveted as Beijing.”

Richey is a student in both the Honors College and the Chinese Flagship Program, which strives to bring students to full fluency in Chinese in four years. 

Michael McClellan, the Diplomat-in-Residence in WKU’s Office of International Programs, believes the Chinese Flagship Program was instrumental in getting Richey this internship.

“An internship in Embassy Beijing requires a certain level of Mandarin Chinese fluency,” he said. “The competition for these internships is very keen, so this award is a sure indicator that the Chinese Flagship Program is producing students with language skills that are competitive on a national level.”

Richey will be in the Public Affairs track, one of the more competitive career tracks in an embassy. In this track, Richey will respond to questions from the media, organize press events as well as cultural events and assist with fostering educational relationships between the U.S. and China. 

Although this is not the first time a WKU student has won a State Department internship, it is the first time a WKU student has won an internship at Beijing.  Craig T. Cobane, Executive Director of the Honors College, says this is not only an achievement for the Chinese Flagship Program, but for WKU as well.

“It is another example of how students, if they work hard can compete with anyone in the country,” he said. “Additionally, it is further evidence that WKU is moving towards its goal of becoming a leading American university with international reach.”

Richey is a political science and Asian religions and cultures major. He is a speaker of the Senate for the WKU Student Government Association, as well as a member of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity. He is also treasurer of College Democrats and chair of the WKU Student Coalition for Renters’ Rights. 

Richey looks forward to the internship because he believes it is the setting of a highly important play.

“Right now, the relationship between the U.S. and China is the most important relationship in the 21st century,” he said. “It is more important now than ever to make sure they are on good terms for the future. I’m really just excited to be a part of it.”