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Honors Student Carrie Vojta Receives Fulbright Scholarship to South Korea

May 7, 2002

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Carrie Votja.
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MACOMB, IL - - Sometimes children follow in the footsteps of their parents; sometimes they run ahead, seeking new adventures and expanded challenges. Such is the case for Western Illinois University senior Caroline "Carrie" Vojta, an English major with a pre-law honors minor.

As a senior at Palatine High School, Vojta dreamed of attending "a big name" institution like the University of Iowa or Michigan State; but as the oldest of six children born to John and Cathe Vojta, staying instate was also a consideration. On May 11, Vojta will graduate from Western with high academic distinction; then in July she will begin a 13-month educational adventure as a Fulbright Scholar to South Korea.

"I got a great education at Western; it's been a wonderful experience, and I couldn't have asked for anything better," Vojta said. "What's helped make it so special is the individual attention. Every one of my professors in English and the Honors program knows me. It's very personal and very rewarding."

And those experiences helped prepare her for earning a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship. The selection process is demanding, rewarding only the top students for excellence in academics, character, leadership potential and commitment to cross-cultural understanding. Nominated by her English academic adviser Kathy Balderson, Vojta completed the detailed online application process, which included designing her own year-long program, last October. Then she waited as "committees in New York then in Washington, D.C. decided they wanted me to represent the U.S.," as she explained. Vojta received the acceptance letter this spring.

"I was really thrilled when I got that letter," Vojta said. "This scholarship allows me to tie in my English degree and pre-law studies with what I want to do the rest of my life.

"I've always had a desire to travel, and I've always wanted to go to law school," she added. "I hope eventually to work in government, perhaps with child adoptions or school discipline issues."

The 22-year-old has achieved great successes through hard work and dedication. She has worked for her father, an attorney in Arlington Heights, for years. She was a four-year competitor and captain of the Palatine High School soccer team, winning the state title as a freshman (1995) and advancing to the playoffs three of four years. She entered WIU on a soccer scholarship, competing with conference honors until her junior season when a knee injury ended her playing career. She has held leadership roles at Western in Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority, Panhellenic Council, Greek judicial board, student activities programming and the athletics student advisory board. She has also held down three jobs to put herself through college.

Before dedicating herself to the 13-month Fulbright adventure, Vojta has other pressing plans. On May 16, she's part of a WIU Campus Students for Christ group heading on a mission trip to Haiti to work in a hospital cleaning, cooking and stocking supplies.

"Somewhere down the road I will incorporate my leadership roles and recognition with ministering," Vojta said. "I love children and have an abundance of experiences to share.

"At some point we have to give back to the community," she added. "Why not start now? Haiti will allow me to give back after four wonderful years at WIU."

On July 5, Vojta will leave for Kangwon National University for an intensive six- week orientation and immersion into the Korean language and culture. That will be followed by a full year of observation and teaching grade school children.

"I'm really looking forward to this year," Vojta said. "It will be exciting and challenging, but I am confident things will work out.

"Ultimately, I want to travel; and maybe someday I could combine travel with law. There is a child development branch of the United Nations which is appealing to me," she added.

However, as appealing world travel may be, Vojta knows where to call home.

"I will miss my parents, brother and sisters more than anything," she said. "No matter where I'll go, home is the best place in the world."

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