Hard work and persistence—not to mention a skipped class and a seven-hour train trip—have paid off for Neal Blank, a senior from Camden, S.C., who was recently chosen for a U.S. Department of State Student Internship.
A double major in history and psychology with a minor in biology, Neal has played Men’s Soccer at Erskine, is a member of Alpha Chi National College Honor Society, and was named to Garnet Circle in 2022. He spent the spring semester of 2023 in the United Kingdom, where he studied at St. Andrews University in Scotland.
Assistant Professor of History Dr. Christiane-Marie Abu Sarah, director of Erskine’s new International Studies program, urged Neal to apply for the internship last year.
“I missed the application window for that cycle but was able to get my application in for this cycle,” Neal recalls. “Dr. Abu Sarah has been incredible in supporting me and providing suggestions, resources, and contacts.”
Abu Sarah is proud to serve as a mentor for Neal.
“Few students have what it takes to land a State Department internship,” she says, noting that the application process is not easy. “Neal persisted and navigated the different challenges masterfully!”
One challenge Neal encountered while still studying in Scotland, having received provisional acceptance to the internship program in April, was the need to complete a crucial step—fingerprinting.
“We emailed frantically back and forth, trying to troubleshoot how he could get fingerprinted by a U.S. official with the necessary credentials,” Abu Sarah says.
“After a dozen or so phone calls to various government agencies, Neal skipped class and hopped on a seven-hour train from Edinburgh, Scotland to London, England, to get fingerprinted at the U.S. Embassy in London.”
Neal is working diligently during the lead-up to his departure. In addition to preparing to take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) before he leaves, he has also been applying to graduate programs in clinical psychology and arranging visits to schools nearby which offer such programs.
“I remain open-minded,” Neal says. “Who knows? I may really enjoy my time at the State Department and want to work some prior to graduate school.”
As he continues to think about his career aspirations and goals, Neal says frankly, “My future is still open. I feel that my calling is tied to being flexible when opportunities arise. God keeps opening doors for me.”
Describing Neal’s U.S. Department of State Internship as “an incredible honor for both Neal and Erskine College,” Abu Sarah says Neal’s selection makes sense.
“In today’s globalized world, employers look for individuals like Neal—problem-solvers and people of character who are willing to step out of their comfort zones, tackle new situations, and adapt to unfamiliar settings.”
Members of the Erskine community who know Neal have little doubt that he will prove an excellent representative for his college and his country.
“Neal is an exceptional young man who exhibits a strong work ethic in everything he undertakes,” says Dean of the College Shane Bradley.
“We are proud of his accomplishments, and we pray for his safety and growth during his adventure.”