US cultural attaché with special responsibility for the North East Kim Dubois inspired students at Darlington College with a talk before fielding questions from the young people.
Based at the US embassy in London, Ms Dubois gauged the students’ perceptions of America, its political system and its people, as part of an initiative organised by the Tees Valley Combined Authority.
She helped dispel myths and popular misconceptions about the world’s richest nation, explained how elections and the administration work ‘across the Pond’ and urged students to take up study and life experiences in America, which often come backed with full scholarships.
More than 100 students from across all the college’s curriculum areas heard the cultural attaché talk about the ‘best year of her life’ working in London and looking after relations with the North-East, following assignments in Iraq, Norway and West Africa.
“I was born in the deep south, North Carolina, where civil rights and social justice were limited,” she said.
“As a result, my parents moved north to Baltimore where I was brought up. With this background I shouldn’t be standing here in this job before you. The reason I am is that I grabbed an opportunity offered by the Sutton Trust and I have worked really hard to secure a post in the UK, one of the most sought after in the service.
“We have a lot of similarities with people in the UK and also many differences. Even within our own country the West and East coasts are different planets. The only way to get to know us properly is to spend some time with us.”
Students heard that the UK sends more students to the US than any other nation and vice versa. There were close military ties, 200,000 Americans lived in the UK and 1m Britons lived in the US. One million jobs spanned both nations, there were 7,500 US businesses in Britain and 8,500 UK firms in America. Trade was worth $235bn.
“We already have a very special relationship and our job at the US embassy is to develop that further, particularly around education, science and technology,” she said.
Maria Harrop, a Curriculum Manager at the College, said: “Our students received an incredible insight into the workings of America thanks to Ms Dubois. We all learnt a great deal particularly around the opportunities available for them to study and work in the US.”