MEET KAYLAH JETTON (Leadership Fellow and Staff Trainer)
- Discover what inspired her interest in language, her role at GLN, and how she plans to
tackle the future
Kaylah Jetton, Leadership Fellow, shares how learning Japanese sparked a pursuit for international travel and a
career in foreign service. Scroll down to learn more and start your journey with the Global Language Network in 27
different languages this semester. See our new schedule and register to know now.
My journey began on my first day of kindergarten at the Foreign Language Immersion and Cultural Studies School
(FLICS). It was an international K-8 school, an anomaly in my hometown of Detroit, where students could learn
French, Spanish, Chinese, or Japanese from native speakers. Many of the core subject teachers were also from
diverse countries. My twin sister and I were too young to remember, but our mother enrolled us in the Japanese class
in hopes that learning the language would give us a unique advantage later in life. It was not until college that I
realized just how right she was.
At FLICS, I would study Japanese for two hours a day. Each grade level class would perform traditional songs and
dances native to the countries where their language of choice originated. I especially enjoyed wearing handwoven
Japanese kimono during our fashion shows and cooking traditional dishes to sell to the other students, parents, and
teachers every year.
I excelled in my Japanese studies, and once I reached junior high, my sister, some classmates, and I were selected
to represent the school at college-level speech and skit contests. Even though I was too young to win any prizes, I
significantly improved in my speaking. The experience made the idea of traveling to Japan and Asia as a whole seem
possible, despite my education in a system rife with disparities. Coupled with the guidance I received from my
teachers, I was determined to work hard and make my dreams of international travel a reality.
I continued my studies as a Japanese teaching aide in high school. During my sophomore year at Michigan State
University, I received the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship to study at the Japan Center for Michigan Universities in
Hikone, Japan. I stayed with a host family and participated in traditional cultural activities such as kembu (sword
dancing) and ikebana (traditional flower arranging). As a Gilman scholar, I was introduced to the differences in
education between world powers like Japan and their ASEAN neighbors. My time abroad inspired my decision to
major in International Studies and eventually. I wanted to help develop beneficial change systems despite cultural
barriers in the future.
Perhaps it was my upbringing in a single-parent, low-income household that drew me to work. Still, for some
unexplainable reason, I find purpose in helping marginalized groups whenever possible. In college, I interned virtually
for the Department of State to create a No Lost Generation Initiative chapter, a student organization dedicated to
supporting displaced women and youth n Turkey, Sudan, and Syria. I also organized a service trip to Costa Rica to
teach English and complete school infrastructure projects. These opportunities developed my leadership skills; I
realized that I could bring like-minded people together for a good cause and take the initiative when plans inevitably
change. Once I graduated, I applied these skills for two years as an Assistant Language Teacher for the Japan
Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program.
My time with the Global Language Network has been both insightful and demanding. In January 2021, I was looking
for a position to combine my love for languages and service. What I found was a close-knit community of diverse
individuals passionate about ‘using language as a tool to help fix our world.’ I started on the operations/administration
team, helping prospective students connect with our organization’s mission and enroll in a class that suits their
professional goals; I drew upon my prior customer service experience for this role.
The flexible nature of GLN allows me to routinely challenge myself by working across teams to complete various
tasks. As a fellow and staff trainer on the outreach team, I partner with students, teachers, and other organizations to
spread the news about the GLN worldwide. I have gained skills in project management, communications, empathy,
problem-solving, self-motivation, and flexibility. I have grown immensely personally and professionally, and I
encourage those looking for a dynamic work experience to research our Leadership Fellowship, Teaching Fellowship,
and Language and Culture Classes.
Learning Japanese and a host of other languages and cultures has opened doors for my future career. I do not know
where I would be without the village of mentors I have had throughout my life. Their belief in my abilities has allowed
me to travel to new places and form strong relationships with people across borders. Once I finish my time here at the
GLN, I hope to complete a Fulbright ETA grant in Southeast Asia. I plan to earn an MA in International Affairs with a
concentration in Comparative and Regional Studies and become a Public Diplomacy/Consular Officer for the US
Department of State. I aspire to use regional knowledge and diplomacy to help solve critical social issues affecting