Yung Nietschke, Class 2 (2003-2005)
Twenty Blogs for 20 Years
Yung Le Nietschke completed a Master of Arts in Education at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2005, where she focused on education system reform in post-conflict settings. After graduating, Yung worked for the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) for seven years, where she managed aid programs in Afghanistan across a portfolio of activities including education, rural development, and governance. Yung currently works for the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) where she is using evidence-based research to support education reform processes in the Asia-Pacific region.
Equipped with the knowledge and skills provided by the Rotary Peace Center, every fellow has paved a unique path in their pursuit of international peace. Indeed, when I think about the diverse achievements of peace fellows around the world, they remind me of bright stars illuminating the sky. Then I realise that these are not only Peace Fellows, but the people, places, and events that they have put a spotlight on through their work and unwavering commitment to creating a world that is more just, more equal, and more peaceful. The Duke-UNC Rotary Peace Center has had a multiplier effect in achieving this goal.
Throughout my journey as a Peace Fellow, I have been – and continue to be – supported and inspired by Rotarians, host families, faculty, Center staff, and the Peace Fellows themselves. When I commenced the Rotary Peace Fellowship in 2003, I thought I knew what to expect before I arrived in North Carolina. But I was pleasantly surprised to find the charming uniqueness of campus culture at Chapel Hill. We had access to world-leading experts and professors who treated us like colleagues rather than students. They spent countless hours coaching and mentoring, guiding, and encouraging us in our inquiry. I remember fondly having coffees and dinners with our professors who welcomed us regularly to their homes. The warmth and hospitality of Southern culture also extended to the American students at Duke and UNC, who introduced me to Halloween, basketball games, tailgate parties, and a memorable blues concert.
Perhaps the most profound memories I have at the Duke-UNC Rotary Peace Center are the times spent with the Rotary Peace Fellows. Some of the friendships that were made have endured over the last 20 years, and we continue to keep in touch or try to see each other whenever we are in the same country.
I am also most grateful to my host family, Frank and Connie, who welcomed me unconditionally into their family life. Thank you for helping me haul furniture up three flights of stairs when I moved in. Thank you for showing me the warmth of an American Thanksgiving and Christmas. Thank you for providing a listening ear. Thank you for introducing me to grits. You are always in our hearts.
The Rotary Peace Fellowship provided me with a world-class education that improved my technical skills in education and equipped me with soft skills in negotiation and peacebuilding. As I progress in my career, I realise that these skills have made my work more purposeful and the connections I make with others deeper and more meaningful. The Rotary Peace Fellowship has helped me to continue my work in countries that have been impacted by conflict such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste, and the Mindanao region of the Philippines. One of the highlights of my career was witnessing a group of Afghan women who had benefited from the program I was managing with literacy and numeracy skills, reading instructions on a fertilizer bag and telling their husbands and fathers the correct rate to apply to their crops.
As a Rotary Peace Fellow, I am part of a rich network of extraordinary individuals all working towards the one common goal. As a result, the connections I’ve made with Peace Fellows around the world have been both professionally and personally rewarding. Together, we continue to support Rotary’s mission of peace and international understanding, whether it is within our local clubs or through international events. In 2019, with four other Peace Fellows, we established the Rotary Peace Fellowship Alumni Association and held the first Global Peace Conference in 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. These connections have transformed into lifelong friendships, and I am grateful for the collaboration and inspiration these Peace Fellows continue to give me.
Thank you to the Rotary Foundation for investing in us. If you ever wonder what the impact of the Fellowship has been, look at the stars.