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cal thomas, jordan, 2013-2014

In his studies of the Middle East, Cal Thomas notes an “interconnectedness” whereby the problems of one country can have a serious impact on another, and any incident can drive a wedge between the ideologies of Western democracies and Eastern authoritarian states.

It is for those reasons that Cal, a UGA Honors student from Martinez who graduates in August 2014 with degrees in international affairs and linguistics (and minors in music and Arabic), has chosen to pursue a career in American foreign policy. He was able to bolster his education and credentials by receiving the Boren Scholarship, taking courses in Arabic and Middle Eastern politics at the Qasid Arabic Institute in Amman, Jordan, as part of the AMIDEAST program.

“The approach the United States takes to conduct relationships with states in this delicate region, especially after the Arab Spring, can either ease building tension or increase anti-American sentiments throughout the world,” Cal says. “I hope one day to build a career in the Middle East by working for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs in the Department of State.”

During his time in Jordan, Cal placed his focus on issues that could affect the political and economic development of the region and the ongoing tension between the Gulf and Iran. But he didn’t neglect his language studies, utilizing Arabic whenever possible.

“I was most looking forward to applying my Arabic skills to the streets,” Cal, who in 2012 traveled to South Africa, Botswana, and Zimbabwe as part of a UGA Globis Study Abroad Maymester. “I enjoyed being able to communicate with Jordanians in Arabic, whether it was with my teachers, my host family, my waiter in a restaurant, or even my taxi driver. It was incredible to see how much progress I had made after nine months in Amman.”

A Presidential Scholar and an Honors International Scholar, Cal has done quite a bit of traveling in his young life, visiting Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, Canada, Belize, India, and the United Arab Emirates. He has also served as the principal bassoonist in the University Philharmonic Orchestra.

Cal’s career goals include representing the United States and its interests abroad, preferably through the Department of State. He specifically hopes to become a Foreign Service Officer on the political, economic, or consular track.

“As my passion for this region grows, my desire to be completely immersed in Arabic language and culture has also grown,” he says. “By serving in the Department of State’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, I will work to support efforts at political and economic reform in the region, especially Jordan. Once I receive a graduate degree in Middle Eastern studies, I will continue to pursue a career in fostering a positive and fruitful relationship with the Middle East and North Africa, whether it be through direct diplomatic interactions or translations of the Arabic language for the United States government.”

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