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Shannon Payne is translating her passions for learning foreign languages and traveling into a mission to improve international relations. During the summer of 2014, Payne worked as a Department of State intern with the Cultural Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Russia. Her duties included instructing Russian exchange students in American customs, planning film festivals showcasing U.S. documentaries to Russian audiences and other cultural endeavors.

“During my internship in Russia, I got to work with their student exchange program,” Payne says. “With all of the conflict that was going on with the U.S. and Russian governments at the time, it was really amazing how the Russian students just wanted to get to know other human beings from another part of the world. It was really great to create that familiarity and build friendships between people from other countries.”

The experience convinced the National Merit Scholar to leverage her UCF degree into a career in diplomacy as a way to create a positive impact on the world.

“I want to utilize my anthropological background to promote cultural awareness between people,” Payne explains. “To promote the understanding that there are people in the world who have different outlooks, different dreams and different goals. You can’t assume that yours is the only right way to do things.”

That plan led Payne to a spring 2015 internship with the World Affairs Council of Central Florida, where she helped host foreign dignitaries visiting the region to learn about government programs and commercial industries through the International Visitor Leadership Program.

“We hosted a group from South Korea that was here to study wildlife conservation,” she says. “They visited Wekiva Springs and Merritt Island and met with representatives from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.”

Payne’s internship experiences have given her an open-minded perspective that she plans to carry into her career aspirations with the Foreign Service, working with public diplomacy or educational exchange programs.

“When you’re interacting with someone from another culture, you have to go into it with a sense of respect and a willingness to learn, because you want that person to respect you and be open minded to you, as well.”

There’s been a lot of opportunity for me at UCF. No matter what I’ve wanted to pursue, there has been a friend, a faculty member or someone on staff who has been there to support me. I’ve definitely felt like I haven’t been expected to fit into some predesigned mold of what a UCF student should be.”

headshot of shannon payne

Meet Shannon Payne

“It’s really important for those trying to achieve a higher education to understand outside of your own bubble — to meet people from other cultures who have been brought up in a different environment. That helps to broaden your own perspective to understand that your truths aren’t universal.”

Hampton, Virginia
Earned her B.A. in anthropology and minor in diplomacy from UCF
As a member of the Burnett Honors College, she served as an Honors Congress officer and an Honors Symposium team leader
Attended UCF on a National Merit Scholarship
Won the first Kathryn Busch Foreign Affairs Internship Award
Selected as the 2014 MacArthur Scholar by the UCF Office of Global Perspectives
Inducted into 2015 Order of Pegasus, UCF’s highest student honor

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