2018 UofL grad Kasey Golding will use her Fulbright Award to do international relations research in Hungary.
2018 UofL grad Kasey Golding will use her Fulbright Award to do international relations research in Hungary.

As Kasey Golding sees it, you have to be open to unexpected opportunities like the ones she encountered at UofL and since. And you need to seize them to achieve your dreams.

The 2018 political science graduate plans to go to Hungary in January to begin a prestigious Fulbright research award though the U.S. Department of State to explore international relations. 

It’s just the latest chance to pursue her interests abroad, and she credits most of them to the continuing aid, interest and support from UofL mentors.

“I think the big thing I learned at UofL was to try things — to put your name out there and try options,” Golding said. The Florida native arrived in Louisville with her political science major in mind and a legal career as a goal, following in the footsteps of her father, 1986 law alum John Golding. However, her path to complete the undergraduate major led her in a different direction, thanks to the encouragement of faculty and staff and to other options explored during her time on campus.

“I was open to other opportunities,” she said. “My mentors at UofL were able to see in me something I couldn’t see in myself.”

Her UofL selection was cinched when she visited Belknap Campus for the Accolade admissions event for high school academic achievers “and fell in love.” Once enrolled, she ended up spending loads of time in the building where her major classes were.

“I was political science to the core,” Golding said. “I lived in Ford Hall and the Ford Hall basement (study area). I recommend UofL’s political science department to anyone I meet. They helped foster that passion I already had for political science.”

She zeroed in on one of those professors, Julie Bunck, her first year at UofL. Golding remembers sitting in Bunck’s class thinking, “somehow, someway, she’s going to be my mentor.” And she was – and remains so.

“Dr. Bunck, in particular, likes for people to check in and tell how we’re doing,” Golding said. “She’s a friend and also a mentor, too.”

Not all the nurturing folks taught in Ford Hall, however, Golding was in the Honors Program, where Luke Buckman and Kirsten Armstrong – “people who always encouraged my crazy ideas” – enriched her college experience. Golding served on the Honors Student Council and as an Honors peer adviser for incoming students for two summers, as well as participating in other related programs.

Plunging into the Honors charitable fundraiser – a huge week-long, biennial book and media sale – she helped run it the year it benefited Camp Quality Kentuckiana for children diagnosed with cancer. About the same time she also worked heavily on raiseRED, the largest UofL student-run philanthropy effort, to raise funds to fight pediatric cancer.

“It is a lot of work,” she said. “It’s always worth it in the end when you see the checks (for the charities’ donations).”

Speaking of hard work, Golding commended everyone in another UofL office, the Office of National and International Scholarship Opportunities, for shepherding her efforts to gain the Fulbright award she ultimately won. 

“I think that’s something that sets UofL apart, that office,” Golding said.

“Fulbright is a very intensive process, but it’s one of the most prestigious scholarships that someone can win,” she said.

The first thing she and fellow applicants realized is to prepare to discard the first application draft, no matter how hard they labored on it, and to keep revising.

“The big thing is to go to people for advice, having people help you,” Golding said. “Everybody at UofL is trying to help you make it better. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”

That light first shone when she qualified as a Fulbright alternate, although she didn’t get the call to go that year. As an English Speaking Union scholar, Golding also spent time at Oxford University focusing on European Union politics.

After graduating from UofL, she opted to study abroad again, earning a master’s degree in European studies at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium. “It ended up being a phenomenal experience,” Golding said.

Her second try for a Fulbright paid off, and that’s why she plans to be in Hungary next year researching the role of central Europe in trans-Atlantic energy cooperation.

Golding hopes her Fulbright term next year could also enable her to remain in Europe to help with a Budapest summer school opportunity that she enjoyed last year, when she was the only American participating at Antall Jozsef Knowledge Center, where she studied regional security politics.

Since summer 2019 she has been stateside in Florida, applying that political acumen to work on a congressional campaign as well as serving as volunteer coordinator with the Blessings in a Backpack nonprofit organization.

So where might all this lead?

Although she admits her dream job would be U.S. secretary of state, Golding does foresee herself “working in D.C. in some capacity with the State Department.” All the building blocks so far are adding up to work in foreign policy or diplomacy.

“I’m excited to see how everything falls together,” she said.